Sunday, December 23, 2012

Story Songs: Goodbye to Love

I believe the Carpenters' "Goodbye to Love" has to be one of the saddest love songs ever recorded. It simply tugs at the heart  from start to finish. 

The song, written by Richard Carpenter and Songwriters Hall of Famer John Bettis, was a departure from the songs by the superstar brother-sister (Richard and Karen) duo that helped define soft rock in the 1970s, with such upbeat hits as "Close to You," "We've Only Just Begun," and "Top of the World."

The tune, as the title implies, deals with the loss of love and the unlikelihood of ever regaining in. Karen's expressive vocal accentuates the moodiness of the lyrics. And right in the middle of it, we hear Tony Peluso's soaring fuzz guitar that takes the song to new heights.

The song opens mournfully and never lets up:

"I'll say goodbye to love

No one ever cared if I should live or die
Time and time again the chance for love
has passed me by
And all I know of love
is how to live without it
I just can't seem to find it."

Later she sings:

"All the years of useless search
Have finally reached an end
Loneliness and empty days will be my
only friend"

If there is a ray of hope, it's in the final verse:

"What lies in the future
is a mystery to us all
No one can predict the wheel of fortune
as it falls
There may come a time when I see that
I've been wrong
But for now now this is my song."

But it closes on a sad note:

"And it's goodbye to love
"I'll say goodbye to love."

And then Peluso's guitar drives the song to a powerful end.

One reason this song touches me so much is because Karen died in 1983,  at the age of 32, of complications from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that causes people to lose weight to the extreme. I often wondered if she felt unloved in her final years.

I'll admit that I wasn't a big fan of the Carpenters during their heyday (although I loved this song), but I've come to admire appreciate them through the years for their mature and heartfelt songs.

"Goodbye to Love"  reached No. 7 on the Billboard charts in 1972. The Carpenters had three No. 1 songs and their catalog of music has more than 100 million in sales. 

"Goodbye to Love" lyrics


  1. I truly believe that Karen had the most beautiful and sensuous voice I've ever heard. And while Goodbye to Love is not my favourite I doubt we'll ever again hear a voice quite like hers.

  2. I agree with you, Roger. She was so expressive in her vocals, and versatile as well. Although the Carpenters sold millions of records, I believe they are still under-appreciated. And Richard was an excellent composer. A very talented duo.

  3. I loved the Carpenters back when they were very popular and I still enjoy their music. I was so sad when I learned that Karen had died. I loved her voice and even felt a connection to her because others thought I had the same tone when I sang. (I wish!) Anyway, this is one of many of their haunting melodies. And with that I wish you much love. :)