Friday, May 15, 2015

"Superstar" BOTB: Karen Carpenter vs. Luther Vandross

No one has ever taken poor little Cherdo by the hand and explained the colorful history of the Battle of the Bands blog hop, but I believe it was started by Far Away Eyes and Stephen T. McCarthy. Arlee Bird, I think you're in the mix, too! Rather than pretend, I'm just making this feeble attempt to give credit where credit is due.

Let's get with it!

The song "Superstar" was written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell. Originally, it was titled "Groupie (Superstar)" The group, Delaney, Bonnie & Friends, naturally had first crack at it. In December of 1969, the song was released by Atlantic Records on the B-side of their record "Comin' Home."

Next, Rita Coolidge got her time at bat while singing back up on Joe Cocker's Mad Dog and Englishmen Revue tour.  Dear Rita is best known for "We're All Alone." Leon Russell was the bandleader on that tour - coincidence that she'd use a song he co-wrote? I think not. But Rita couldn't lay claim to the final version of the song...not even close.

As a Tonight Show regular, Bette Midler performed "Superstar" circa 1970. Bette's version echoed the loneliness of the song; it was almost spoken at the beginning. She repeated this tune on a Bert Bacharach special, if you'd like to see it on YouTube. Eventually the song appeared on her 1972 debut album titled The Divine Miss M.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Richard Carpenter heard the Bette Midler version and couldn't wait to do his own arrangement of the song. Karen Carpenter heard Rita Coolidge's earlier arrangement but it didn't really jump out at her as a "must-sing" piece. Richard's treatment of the song won her over. In 1971, the Carpenters recorded "Superstar." Richard hastily wrote lyrics on a napkin for her to follow, tweaking the line "sleep with you" and replacing it with "be with you."  Karen nailed it in one take. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Carpenters:


Luther Vandross knew a good tune when he heard one. In the 80s, this R&B crooning phenomenon performed his rendition of "Superstar" on tour, frequently stretching it out and turning it into a production in its own right. 

The song appeared on the album Busy Body in 1983.

Guys and Gals, here is Mr. Vandross:


Many artists covered "Superstar," but you just have to chose between these two. Vote in the comments below.

Wait! You're not done till you vote in these epic battles! Check back for results on the 7th and 21st of the month. Let the games begin (of course, I alphabetized it).

ALEX CAVANAUGH (when BOTB falls on a Mon., Wed., or Fri.)

















67 comments:

  1. Since I already know that Stephen T McCarthy will be voting for Luther I'll have to go opposite and vote for Karen Carpenter. And if McCarthy votes Carpenter then you'll know he's just being a copy cat and since I well know that he cannot stand Karen Carpenter.

    I have the Dance for My Father CD by Vandross and it's excellent. On this version of "Superstar" I will acknowledge his talent but, man, does he drag this out. I'd probably prefer his shorter version if he has one. The live version? Maybe you had to be there to fully enjoy this one.

    I like Leon Russell's version better than Luther's, but for me the version by the Carpenters is the definitive one. One of their best tracks I think.

    Big vote for the Carpenters from me. McCarthy don't you dare copy me!

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Road trippin' with A to Z
    Tossing It Out

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    1. BOIDMAN ~
      Ha!-Ha! Apparently, you were typing your comment at the same time I was typing mine. When I got here, there were no comments yet and I thought mine would be the first, but I guess you, and FAE too, type faster'n I do.

      The ONLY reason I voted the same way you did is because I'm deliberately attempting to bring on Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ.

      Loved yer comment, Brother Bird!

      ~ D-FensDogG

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    2. This is a better response that I thought....haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

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  2. Before I get into my vote and 'all that jazz; a big ole hearty welcome to BATTLE OF THE BANDS. Your first run at this is a great BATTLE and I've learned a thing or two in your post.

    I'm a big fan of Leon Russell and yet had no idea that he co-wrote 'Superstar'. Of course, Ole Leon had his had in a lot in his day, so I shouldn't be surprised. I think I may have heard the Divine Miss M perform this at one time or another, but I didn't know of the original or the cover by Rita Coolidge.

    I like Luther Vandross, most of the time, I really do, but I have to admit; I gave him five minutes and simply had to 'get the hook'. His version crossed into the land of 'cheesy', at least for me.

    I have always associated this song with Karen Carpenter and her melancholy, 'clear as a bell' voice is the only thing that 'does it for me' on this simple tune with the lonely longing.

    Give Karen my vote here.

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    1. I believe that clip was from his live show and I found out he went all out on some of his songs - this was one of them. Sometimes, he even had dancers!

      Trivia: Who started the first Patti LaBelle fan club? A teenaged Luther Vandross.

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    2. farawayeyes, are you saying you've seen The Divine One in concert? If you have, then please send me something you've touched--even a used tissue would be fine.

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  3. Doggone it, DOC CHERDO! I thought I told you NEVER to do a BOTB installment with Tiny Ti--- er... actually, that IS what I said, isn't it?

    Well... Tiny Tim, Karen Carpenter... what's the difference?!

    I listened to Luther, but only to be polite (and fair). However, it's a plain, unquestioned (and, yes, that's [Link:->] "CLOCKED!") fact that KAREN CARPENTER flat-out "OWNS" this song!

    Poor Luther. I'm sure he's a nice guy but... he just got his butt kicked by a... girl.

    [CHERDO, although your first BOTB blog bit may turn out to be a shutout, you score bookoo--- beaukoo--- buhkuh--- you score a LOTTA points for using The Carpenters in your debut BOTB installment!]

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Karen Carpenter Fan'

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    1. For everyone who absolutely loves a song, there's someone who doesn't, so you never know.

      I've got to withhold all comments on the songs till the 21st, so all I can say is thanks for adding me to the mix! I gotta check out these other bloggers. Mama gots some work to do.

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  4. Karen Carpenter - Because she's cuter. Or was. Should had some cheeseburgers Karen.

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    1. Somebody go back in time and interfere with that outcome - what a waste. That's the first thing I'll use my time machine for - unless CWMartin jumps on it. Chris, I'm giving you a task!

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  5. Cherdo, welcome to the world of battles. So I'm looking around, and you don't have any milk and cookies out. I guess you didn't get that memo either (smile). I promise, even now... I listened to Luther's entire video. He amazes me with those twisty, sweat pouring off his face, high notes. I felt like I'd been in a romantic shower. (Where's the Dial, when you need it, smile?) I am a Luther fan. This video I could listen to about once a year. I guess you know where I'm headed.

    Karen's voice, without photos or video even... gives me great joy, coupled with great sadness simultaneously. The arrangement by Richard suits them. My vote goes to Karen Carpenter. Lovely battle... reminded me of some good times. Again, I'm glad you could join us. Never take anything stmcc says seriously.

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    1. Thanks, Dixie - I have STMcC teflon long johns on. And it you think Luther was sweaty, you oughtta see my desk chair...

      Gotta zip my lip on my opinion till the 21st. I hope I'm battle worthy!

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  6. Good morning, dear Cherdo, and welcome to the Battle of the Bands hop, a proud tradition since 1956. I love your music posts.

    First I want to say R.I.P. to blues pioneer B.B. King. "The thrill is gone."

    Luther V turns in a fine performance of this great songwriter's song, "Superstar." Perspiration glistens on his face and head, his smooth voice runs the scale in a series of melismas, his soulful backing singers create a churchy atmosphere and the audience eats it up. However, Karen Carpenter, one of the greatest female singers of the century, gave us the definitive interpretation of the song. No one can touch her performance. You were correct in introducing their clip with the words, "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Carpenters" because those talented siblings commanded respect, kept audiences riveted and made everybody else's material their own. It is a moving experience to witness that beautiful, fragile candle in the wind, Karen, as she rendered "Superstar" with such purity and grace. Totally a classic!

    I vote for the Carpenters, dear friend Cherdo, and thanks for the memories, painful though they might be. Have a safe and happy weekend!

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    1. Shadyman, we enter a new venture - battle of the bands, S & C style.

      "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" (infused with Wayne's World).

      When the Carpenters appeared on television and did slow songs, I always remember the reverent tone as the announcer said, "Ladies and gentlemen, The Carpenters."

      Likewise, Luther Vandross was a "musician's musician" aptly nicknamed "The Velvet Voice." His early career logged many hours as a back up singer to some of the greatest rock and R&B voices.

      The battle of the bands may have specific parameters, but I don't know them. I'm a Flipster - I do what I want to do (The Geezer Rule). My goal was to make a balanced competition. Both command equal respect in their specific genres and appeal to different audiences, but neither artist was the writer of this song - or the first to do it publicly. In my mind, that makes them basically a fair fight. The rest is personal opinion and how people connect to the song.

      Thanks for the vote, my friend!

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    2. Good thing you're a flipster and not a hipster. Do I vote here and at Shady's bloghouse of ill repute? I think I've already answered my own question.

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  7. Both were good, but I'll go with Karen Carpenter.

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    1. Duly notes and appreciated! Thanks, EPT!

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  8. Welcome to BoTB, Cherdo! This is such a lovely song. The Carpenter's recording is the only one I know. I listened to Vandross and while I like his R&B style I think it just can't cut it with this ole favorite of mine sung by Karen. I think Fae said it best..."I have always associated this song with Karen Carpenter and her melancholy, 'clear as a bell' voice is the only thing that 'does it for me' on this simple tune with the lonely longing" and I have to agree 100%. Please, give my vote to Karen Carepenter! Nice job!!

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    1. Oppsy, I forgot to click "Notify Me" yet again. I'm going back to bed!

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    2. Alright, Cathy Kennedy! Your vote has been tallied and duly noted. Thanks!

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  9. I love Luther but Karen takes it.

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  10. I know Rita Coolage for her rendition of "(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher", As for today's battle, there is no doubt Luther VanDross is awesome at what he does. But that said, for this song, the simple clean delivery by Karen Carpenter can't be beat in my opinion. Her and her brother were an awesome team and it still makes me both mad and sad as to why she'd not still with us today.
    Life & Faith in Caneyhead

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    1. Ooo...you reminded me of Rita's other hit. I'd forgotten about that one.

      Vote tallied! Thanks, Barbara.

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  11. I have to go with Karen Carpenter. I've always loved The Carpenters.

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    1. Ka-ching! Another vote is tallied. Break out the calculator; this will be tough math. :-)

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  12. Hi Cherdo; This is my first time participating in BOTB too and I laughed, because you're not the only one who alphabetized the list. That has to be a good omen. ☺
    While Luther's version is good, my vote goes to The Carpenters. Their recording of Superstar brings back such profound and intense memories for me. Great inaugural post!

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    1. Thanks, Debbie!

      If you're gonna be a type A personality, be one publicly, eh?

      Score another one for The Carpenters!!

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  13. Hey Cherdo. Cheers to another new BOTB member. Today is my first battle too.
    Wow, good battle and both are so different. I have to give it to Karen Carpenter. I've always been a big fan of the Carpenters and I love her voice and delivery. I didn't really care for the Luther Vandross version.
    I didn't know that Bette Midler and Rita Coolidge did this song as well. I've always just associated it with the Carpenters.
    Great battle Cherdo. Here's to having a blast with our newfound BOTB fun! :)
    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Michele, I enjoyed your blog so much because I am an animal lover, too. Kudos to you!

      I'm betting that most people thought The Carpenters wrote this song. Actually, the first one I saw do it was Bette Midler. That performance made me think, "Hey...who IS that?"

      Thanks for joining in and nice first post, girl! Great job.

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    2. I need to get you on the list - correcting that NOW.

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  14. I lined them up and hit play at the same time for both and came up with a very interesting Superstar in round variation. My vote is for that...!

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    1. Must I come up there and beat a vote outta ya? You know that's not my style. :-)

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  15. Now I'm wondering if I do the same thing but play them backward if I'll get some secret message about Paul McCartney?

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    1. Why does the McCartney cross the road without shoes?

      Because he wore flip flops (which we used to call thongs) that day. That still doesn't tell me why he was barefoot.

      Now what's this about Ringo what's his name?

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  16. I like the Carpenters. That's pretty cool that she nailed it on the first try.

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    1. Another vote for Karen and Richard! Thanks, Sherry!

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  17. Hey, nice to see you taking part in Battle of the Bands! I love these things.

    Luther Vandross had an absolutely incredible voice, and yet, he just couldn't quite steal it from the Carpenters. They very much get my vote.

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    1. Thanks, guys! Chalk another one up for The Carpenters.

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  18. Karen Carpenter had such an evocative voice. Unmatchable.

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    1. I have to agree with you, Stephen! Have a great vacation and you'd better take pictures. :-)

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  19. Karen Carpenter is one of those singers that I've truly come to appreciate over time. I mean, I liked her when I was a kid, but I liked most music. I wasn't capable of discerning the sheer genius of Richard and Karen together. In fact, since following StMc and hearing him go on about The Carpenters has caused me to revisit a great deal of their music and hear it with "new" ears.

    Her voice is so darn pure and Richard knew how to work an arrangement so it suited her to a T.

    So, no shock here, but another one for Ms. Karen Carpenter.

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    1. The tally continues...Karen is in the lead (and alone at the top!).

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  20. As soon as I saw the competitors I knew my choice was The Carpenters. Karen can still break my heart. I'm not sure how many Carpenters albums are in my cabinet. Probably four or five. Only one other group has multiplicity with me: Three Dog Night. Now I have to look for The Divine One's rendition of Superstar. I adore her because, well, because she's divine.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I know what you mean, Janie! I'm withholding all comments till the 21st on my pick. ;-)

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  21. Damn, am I behind the times on this one! And I will vote later when I can listen, but I thought I would share this on topic item: I did a post on this song on Time Machine a long while back, and got a comment from someone purporting to be the agent "for the late Delaney Bramlet", who claimed Delainey wrote the song, and used used the fact that ASCAP has it credited under his name as proof. We went back and forth for a while on two different posts, he got confused on what was said on which post, accused me of deleting comments, and was never heard from again. I haven't scrolled through your comments, but I hope you escaped the rantings of that idiot.

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    1. I've ran into that kind of stuff, too - who knows? If it's true (and I'm still not sure it is), he has a big job ahead. I found "Bonnie Bramlet and Leon Russell" everywhere. Bonnie's site mentions the song and doesn't list Delaney: http://www.bonniebramlett.com/bio.html

      THAT SAID...I've even found a site that credited Rita Coolidge as a "co-author".

      I guess we take our best shot. If Bonnie's own website doesn't mention Delaney, I'll go with that. I'm just quoting, folks...

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    2. Yep, I told him the very same. Some people believe what they want to. Anyway, I gave Luther a fair shot, though I'm not the Vandross fan the rest of the world is. It might be one of his best efforts.

      Beat the Carpenters? Not a chance.

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  22. Too tough; I dislike both. The Carpenters sound a lot like Abba, and I love them usually. Luther started with a piano - I mean, a piano usually means a better version. Usually. Hmmm, too many usually.

    Well, I'd like to give it to Luther, but after the third or fourth listen to - got farther into the song each time, I decided to give it to Karen. Shame, I really wanted to be the one to nix her shut out!

    Welcome to the party Cherdo :)

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    1. Thanks, Dolorah! It's not fun without a little controversy to spice it up.

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  23. Karen Carpenter--I feel in love with voice as a teenager (I was the guy who liked the music of the likes of Yes and Steely Dan and was in love with Karen Carpenter). A tragic life, but her voice was angelic and I'm glad we live in a day when we can still listen.

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    1. Is that a Karen vote, brother? Thanks!

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  24. My vote goes to Karen Carpenter.

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    1. And I have news! The boss man has given me the blessing of being able to sit at the cool kids table. My first battle will be June 1. So, if you want to add my name to your list of participants - I'd like that.

      Mary @ Jingle Jangle Jungle
      www.jinglejanglejungle.net

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  25. To me this songs needs the simple strong voice of Karen Carpenter. The rendering of Vandross is just too all over the place with his voice even though it is a great voice. I lose the essence of the what the song is when he sings it so my vote goes to the wondrous Karen Carpenter

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    1. One more for The Carpenters! Thanks, Birgit.

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  26. Isn't it amazing one sung has been covered by so many! I adore the Divine Miss M -- she IS a superstar -- and I remember loving the Carpenters when I was in high school. Not such a fan of Luthor though. Thanks for the details, and have a great weekend!

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    1. The Carpenters dominated the airwaves at one time and it was a good thing. I used to sing at weddings and if I had a nickel for every time "We've Only Just Begun" was mentioned, I'd be rolling in it.

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  27. I don't care that Rita and Bette recorded it first, because as far as I'm concerned this song begins and ends with Karen Carpenter. I'm a huge Bette Midler fan, but I don't think she did this song justice. I've always liked Luther too. Though he tried to sing this in his own style, his slow rendition was no match for this song. You did an outstanding job on your first BOTB, Cherdo!

    Julie

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    1. Thank you, dear! I'm trying to keep from artist commentary till the 21st, but it's pretty hard to do!

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  28. I love Karen Carpenter, it is sad she died so young.

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    1. It sure is. Voices like that don't come along very often.

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Thanks for your personal yada, yada, yada,
Love, Cherdo