“Goodbye to Love” (1972) by the Carpenters

On the surface, the Carpenters epitomize the nadir of middle-of-the-road 1970s AM pop. But “Goodbye to Love” is a great song.  Granted, a lot of my love for this song has to due with the very prominent fuzz guitar by Tony Peluso.   But that guitar sound adds a tremendous edge to the lyrics which rival Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave in their immense pessimism and depression.   Seriously, this is one hell of a great downer song.  Had this been sung by Cohen or Cave, this would be considered more of a classic than it is.   Because it’s sung by Karen Carpenter, it’s considered AM-radio cheese.  However, I would argue that her beautiful voice makes this song even more perverse.  Either way, I love this.

“Tunic (Song for Karen)” – Sonic Youth

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From the 1990 album “Goo,” this is Sonic Youth’s non-ironic tribute to Karen Carpenter. I can’t say for sure whether this was inspired by Todd Haynes’ legendary underground short “Superstar,” but the spirit is the same. Both “Superstar” and “Tunic” may seem snarky considering that the artists involved came from the underground, but the sentiment is anything but.  Which is why the song still packs a punch nearly 25 years later.

“Superstar” – Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth’s eerie, otherworldly cover of the Carpenter’s early 1970s hit would make any short list I’d come up with for best covers of all time. Unlike their 1980s cover of “Addicted to Love,” which reeks of hipster d-baggery, the band really captures the pathos of this song in a unique, sincere, and classy way.   On a side note, Kim Gordon has never looked sexier than in this video.