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Mary Chapin Carpenter



Born on February 21, 1958 in Princeton, New Jersey, Mary Chapin Carpenter is the third of four daughters. Her father, Chapin Carpenter, was an executive with Life magazine, and her mother Bowie Carpenter, worked at a private school. Mary Chapin's first love as a child was ice skating, and she regularly spent summers in Colorado at various skating camps. She was also exposed to all kinds of music, and by the second grade she had learned to strum chords on an acoustic guitar. "There were four girls in my family, all within two to three years of each other," she told Ryan P. Murphy of the Washington Post (August 1, 1987), "and every one of us liked something different. My older sister liked classical stuff, my middle sister liked musical comedy, and my younger liked rock-'n'-roll." Added to that eclectic mix was her father's taste for jazz and her mother's preference for opera.
In 1969 the Carpenter family moved to Tokyo after Chapin Carpenter had been named publishing director of Life's Asian edition. They returned to New Jersey in 1971. Three years later Chapin Carpenter accepted a job in Washington, D.C., forcing the family to relocate again. Shortly thereafter Chapin and Bowie Carpenter divorced, and Mary Chapin left home to finish high school at the exclusive Taft School, in Watertown, Connecticut. At least partly because of the instability of her childhood, she became something of a loner, and she began writing music as a way to cope with her insecurities. "In high school I wasn't ever a member of the cool group," she told Karen Schoemer for a New York Times Magazine (August 1,1993)profile. "I just wasn't cool enough, I wasn't pretty enough, I wasn't savvy enough, or something. And I was so convinced of all these feelings that that's when I really retreated into playing music, being by myself, scribbing my thoughts on paper."
Although she had been accepted by Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, Carpenter deferred college for a year following her high school graduation in order to travel. Around the time of her freshmen term at Brown in 1976, Carpenter, at the urging of her father, began performing at open-mike nights in Washington-area clubs. As she recalled in an interview with Richard Harrington of the Washington Post (June 1, 1989), her first public peformance was an uncomfortable experience. "I got a really nice response,"she told Harrington, "and I couldn't even talk between songs because I thought I was going to barf." Despite her continuing stage fright, she performed at the campus coffeehouse at Brown, and during summer vacations from school, she became a popular regular on Washington's thriving acoustic-music scene.
After graduating from Brown in 1981 with a B.A. degree in American civilization, Carpenter returned to Washington, D.C., where she soon became a fixture on the bar circuit, covering songs by such well-known performers as Bonnie Raitt, Billie Holiday, and James Taylor, but late nights and hard drinking soon wore her down. "I had a big problem," she admitted to Rolling Stone (March 21, 1991) reporter Eliza Wing. "It's still so painful to me to think about how I was." Carpenter made the necessary change in 1983, when she took a job in Washington as an administrative assistant with the R. J. Reynolds philanthropic organization, which was involved in human rights issues in Central America and South Africa. The steady paycheck allowed her to cut down on performing and to take better care of herself, so that she was able to concentrate on her writing. Eventually, she began to slip some of her own numbers in among the popular cover songs she sang in her shows.
Carpenter quickly gained a reputation as a talented songwriter, and at the 1986 Washington Area Music Awards (known as the Wammies), she won five Wammies, including best new artist and best songwriter. The awards convinced her that she might have a successful career in the music business. "I started to have a bit of a sense that, 'Gosh, I'd like to think of myself as a singer/songwriter. I think it's okay,'" she has said. In November 1986 Carpenter was close to signing a record deal with Rounder Records, an independent folk-music label, when Gary Oelze, the owner of Carpenter's musical home, the Birchmere Club, in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, told Larry Hamby, an executive with Columbia Records, about Carpenter and her immienent agreement with Rounder Records. Hamby flew to Washington the same day, took in Carpenter's show, and listened to a tape she had made to sell at her concerts. The next day, he offered her a contract with Columbia Nashville, the label's country music division.
The demo tape that had caught Hamby's attention became Carpenter's first album, Hometown Girl. Released in the summer of 1987, it was comprised mostly of ballads that averaged five minutes in length. The album sold only about twenty thounsand copies in its initial release, but it enjoyed considerable critical success. The country music critic Robert K. Oermann, in an article in the Tennessean, hailed her as "one of the great songwriting discoveries of 1987", and he included Hometown Girl on his list of best country records of the year. Carpenter also took home five Wammies in 1987, including artist of the year, best vocalist (country and folk), and best songwriter.


birthday: february 21
marital status: single
eye color: brown
hair color: the blond one
height: 5' 3"
first song: written at age 7, about a bumblebee squashed on the sidewalk.
favorite movie: to kill a mockingbird favorite
tv show: the larry sanders show favorite
book: parting the curtains: interviews with southern writers by daynne romine powell
favorite drink: coffee
favorite song: "kung fu fighting"
favorite sport: boy watching
favorite store: crate & barrel
favorite foods: soft-shell crabs and beignets



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Mary Chapin Carpenter Lyrics
Country Room
Front Door
Email: J3019@hotmail.com