Marilyn and I were teenagers in the 1970’s. Pop music was different then. For one thing, there were no warning labels on records. For another, melody and harmony still mattered…it wasn’t all just about the beat. And, last but not least, there were still songs about romance, and not just about sex.
Remember the Carpenters?
Our first date was in 1971. It was a high school homecoming dance. Our second date was a Carpenter’s concert in Evansville, Indiana. So you can imagine our elation when we stumbled across a full concert by the Carpenters from the early 70’s on YouTube. We watched it in its entirety and relived the early days of our romance which is now 43 years old. Yes, Carpenters fans, it was “yesterday once more.”
I was struck again by the giftedess of Karen Carpenter. Did she ever hit a bad note? Not that I’ve heard. Was there ever a more beautiful contralto voice? Not that I’ve heard. In 2008, Rolling Stone voted her the 94th best singer of all time. Surely, they must have been joking.
But hanging thick in the air as we watched the concert was the fact that Karen Carpenter died in 1983 at the age of 32 from complications related to anorexia nervosa, a deadly eating disorder that was little known at the time. At 5’4, Karen weighed 145 pounds in 1966. By 1975, she weighed 91 pounds. There is a YouTube video of her on The Tonight Show in 1978 where she looks like a skeleton with clothes on. My point is that there were signs that something was terribly wrong, yet we were all shocked when we heard about her death.
There’s something about extreme talent that blinds us.
Whether it’s a singer or an athlete or even a gifted preacher, we tend to see the person and the gift as one and the same. They aren’t. Behind the stellar performances on stage, on the court, or behind the pulpit, we need to remember that the people we admire and who seem to have such good lives struggle too.
Life is hard for everybody, which makes these words of Jesus even more important:
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)