Songs Written In Tribute #2 – ‘Tunic (Song For Karen)’ by Sonic Youth

Welcome back to this occasional series where I plan to write about songs written as a tribute to artists who have gone before. I will also always share something by the recipient of the tribute.

Sonic Youth were an American band I was not very familiar with, but once I discovered they had written a song about the late, great Karen Carpenter I knew it would have to be included in this series. If you know the story of how Karen lost her life to anorexia at the very young age of 32, it makes for sober listening.

Tunic (Song For Karen) by Sonic Youth:


Kim Gordon, from Sonic Youth, was a massive Carpenters fan and Tunic (Song For Karen) is a powerful homage. She imagined her happy in heaven, looking down at her brother Richard.

“I was trying to put myself into Karen’s body. It was like she had so little control over her life, just like a teenager – they have so little control over what’s happening to them, that one way they can get it is through what they eat or don’t eat. Also I think she lost her identity, it got smaller and smaller. And there have been times when I feel I’ve lost mine. When people come and ask me about being famous or whatever and I don’t feel that, it’s not me. But it makes me think about it. The music is definitely about the darker side. But I also wanted to liberate Karen into heaven.”

Karen on the left, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth on the right

As it’s a Monday, and as it’s rainy here today, there can only be one song choice from the Carpenters vast back catalogue. Rainy Days And Mondays is one of my favourite songs but you do have to be in a pretty good place, mentally, to listen it. I used to have a friend who loved nothing more than to spend an evening in a darkened room listening to melancholy music, but it’s not something I’ve ever mastered without getting a bit blue. The song was written by Paul Williams but Karen always made any song her own, and when you listen to the vocals here, well, it’s all just so sad.

Rainy Days and Mondays by the Carpenters:


I have watched a couple of documentaries in the last fortnight about suicide, one made by the family of Caroline Flack (who sadly took her own life just over a year ago) and one by Roman Kemp called Our Silent Emergency (prompted by his best friend’s suicide). The thing that struck me most was that in both cases the people who died were surrounded by people who loved them, and who would have gone out of their way to help them, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. Vile trolling on social media was most definitely a factor in Caroline’s death, but for young men, who find it hard to talk openly about their worries, silence is the biggest factor.

Looking back at the years when I watched the Carpenters on television, it was obvious something was very wrong. We didn’t know it at the time but Karen’s death was a long slow suicide, right in front of our eyes. She never lost her beautiful voice, but by the end of her life she was a hollow-eyed, shell of the girl she had been behind the drum kit. She had millions of fans who adored her, but like Caroline she struggled with life in the spotlight, and like Roman’s friend, she remained silent.

A bit of a sad one this, but as I said, I really felt the need to include it. Next time the material will hopefully be a little happier.

Sonic Youth

Tunic (Song For Karen) Lyrics
(Song by T. Moore, K. Gordon, L. Ranaldo, S. Shelly)

Dreaming, dreaming of a girl like me
Hey what are you waiting for, feeding, feeding me
I feel like I’m disappearing, getting smaller every day
But I look in the mirror, I’m bigger in every way

She said,
You aren’t never going anywhere
You aren’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere

I’m in heaven now, I can see you Richard
Goodbye Hollywood, goodbye Downey, hello Janis
Hello Dennis, Elvis and all my brand new friends
I’m so glad you’re all here with me, until the very end

Dreaming, dreaming of how it’s supposed to be
But now this tunic’s spinning, around my arms and knees
I feel like I’m disappearing, getting smaller every day
But when I open my mouth to sing, I’m bigger in every way

She said,
You aren’t never going anywhere
You aren’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere

Hey mom! Look I’m up here, I finally made it
I’m playing the drums again too
Don’t be sad, the band doesn’t sound half bad
And I remember mom, what you said
You said honey, you look so under-fed

Another green salad, another ice tea
There’s a tunic in the closet waiting just for me
I feel like I’m disappearing, getting smaller every day
But I look in your eyes, and I’m bigger in every way

She said,
You aren’t never going anywhere
You aren’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere

Goodbye Richard, gotta go now
I’m finally on my own, but Dan’s got a gig
Keep the love lights glowing, little girl’s got the blues
I can still hear momma say: “honey don’t let it go to your head