The song was written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols. It was first recorded by Nichols’ friend Smokey Roberds, who used the name Freddie Allen. Tt debuted as a TV commercial for Crocker National Bank in California with Williams on the vocals. The ad agency Hal Riney & Partners wanted to appeal to young people, so the commercial showed a newly married young couple. The music in the ad did not use the name of the Bank in the commercial, and it was a success for the Bank’s business. Richard Carpenter saw the commercial and guessed that it was Paul Williams. They were both under contract with A&M Records, and Richard wanted to record the song. So Williams and Nichols added more verses and a bridge. The track by The Carpenters featured Karen’s warm voice on the lead, and both Richard and Karen sang the background harmonies. They released at as a single in 1970, backed with “All of My Life.” The single went to #1 on Cash Box , the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart, and in Canada. It rose to #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. They sold more than one million copies, and it became their second RIAA gold record after “(They Long to Be) Close to You.” The song was also on The Carpenters’ 1970 album titled Close to You.
“We’ve Only Just Begun” became a signature song for the duo and won them two Grammy Awards in 1971. (The song also helped to catapult Williams’ career.) It is on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” And it is very popular at weddings.
On the track were Karen Carpenter (lead and backing vocals), Richard Carpenter (vocals, piano, Wurlizter electric piano), Joe Osborn (bass), Hal Blaine (drums), and Doug Strawn (clarinet). A little help with instrumentation from the fabulous Wrecking Crew session musicians is a plus.
The brother and sister team from Los Angeles of Karen and Richard Carpenter had a very successful 14-year career together. Karen passed away from complications caused by anorexia nervosa in 1983. Richard has continued to perform over the years and become involved in numerous musical projects.