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Karen Carpenter was the 'Queen of Christmas' in the 1970s

Image: ABC

If one group could epitomize some of the best parts of the 1970s, it would be the Carpenters. They dominated the music charts with their pop hits and sat atop the Nielsen ratings with their television specials.

For a good chunk of the decade, they also dominated the holiday season.

The Carpenters kicked off the '70s with the release of "Merry Christmas Darling." The tune was a hit right off the bat, peaking at number one on Billboard's Christmas singles chart in 1970, and again in 1971 and 1973. 

In 1974, the Carpenters got their first taste of a televised Christmas special on The Perry Como Christmas Show.

On the program, Richard hammered out a rendition of "Carol of the Bells" on the piano and the duo performed with Como. But it was Karen who brought the house down with a slower, jazzier rendition of "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town." Who knew a silly song like that could sound so sultry?

Their critically lauded appearance on The Perry Como Christmas Show would pave the way for their own special in 1977.

The Carpenters at Christmas was an hour-long showcase for Karen's vocals and Richard's instrumental skills. Many of the Christmas songs featured on this program are ones people can still hear in department stores, on radio stations and Christmas compilations to this day.

It's the epitome of what a variety special in the 1970s was all about: Backup dancers! Cheap visual effects! Guest appearances by Kristy McNichol and Harvey Korman! Someone, bring us a time machine. 

In the special, Karen wants to throw a Christmas party, but Richard's just not feeling the spirit of the season. 

Meanwhile, Karen belts standards like "Sleigh Ride," "White Christmas" and "The Christmas Song" with ease. If her angelic voice didn't get Richard in the Christmas spirit, he must be a real Grinch.

The following year, the Carpenters returned to primetime with The Carpenters: A Christmas Portrait. Once again, the brother and sister hosted a Christmas party. But this time around, guests included Gene Kelly and Georgia Engel. Of course, Kristy McNichol returned.  

The duo's 1970 seasonal smash got a makeover, with Karen rerecording "Merry Christmas Darling" for a more mature sound. The guests also got a fair number of songs, but Karen overshadowed them all. 

Thanks to these TV specials, we have some truly timeless Christmas music. We just can't imagine the holiday season without Karen crooning some of our favorite hits.

Sure, Santa reigns supreme over Christmas. But in the 1970s, Karen was the true queen of the holiday.

Do you remember watching any of these specials?

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