Richard Lynn Carpenter was the first-born child of Harold and Agnes Carpenter. Richard learned to play piano at age 11 while growing up in New Haven, while his younger sister took up the drums. He moved to Downey, California with his parents and sister Karen in June 1963. Richard, Karen, and a friend Wes Jacobs played together as the Richard Carpenter Trio and won a local talent contest in 1966 at the Hollywood Bowl. Jacobs left the group to study music after their initial demos for RCA Records didn't pan out.
Richard started performing with his sister as a duo playing easy listening pop-rock known as the "Carpenters Sound." A demo tape caught the ear of Herb Alpert of A&M Records and the Carpenters were signed to a contract in 1969. They took less than a year to score their number one hit with "Close to You." It was soon followed by the hit "We've Only Just Begun."
Over the next decade, the Carpenters would go on to sell more records than any other American-born group winning three Grammys and an American Music Award. From 1970 to 1976, they had 16 consecutive Top 20 hits on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart. They appeared in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe and toured all over the world in the early 1970's where they were well received especially in Europe and Japan.
Touring and production pressures caught up with Richard as he fought an addiction to prescription drugs and Karen battled with dieting and being underweight. The Carpenter's 1981 comeback album "Made in America," became their biggest hit in years thanks to the Top 20 single "Touch Me When We're Dancing." Karen passed away from heart failure in 1983 due to a severe loss of weight while battling anorexia nervosa at her parent's home in Downey, California.
Richard married his long-time girlfriend Mary Rudolph in 1984 and together with their five children, Kristi, Traci, Mindi, Colin, and Taylor, live in Thousand Oaks, California.