There are two pretty well-known versions of “Solitaire” — one by Andy Williams and one by The Carpenters.
If you’re a Brit like me, you probably think of “Solitaire” as an Andy Williams song — his version made the UK Top 5 in early 1974. And if you’re from elsewhere in the world, you’re more likely to think of it as a song by The Carpenters. Their version was a Billboard Top 20 single in 1975.
Much as I love Karen Carpenter, Andy Williams version is my preferred choice for this song. His voice somehow suits it perfectly.
Karen Carpenter, as one of the finest female vocalists of the 20th century, does a great job, of course. But while I enjoy it, her version doesn’t burrow its way deep into my soul the way Andy Williams’ version does.
As well as being a lovely song in its own right, “Solitaire” was an important career turning point for an extremely well-known name from the early days of rock and roll.
Neil Sedaka — famous for hits like “Oh! Carol”, “Calendar Girl” and “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” in the late 1950s and early 1960s — had spent a few years in the wilderness as a result of musical tastes changing through the 1960s.
Although he’d kept himself busy writing songs for other artists, Neil Sedaka hadn’t troubled the charts for a number of years until his 1972 recording of “Solitaire” jumpstarted a new phase of his career, and opened the doors to a decade of great critical and commercial success, arguably surpassing his original achievements from a decade earlier.
Neil Sedaka wrote the music for “Solitaire”, with songwriting partner Phil Cody in charge of the lyrics. Sedaka’s biggest hits from the 1950s and ‘60s were co-written with Howard Greenfield, so this change in lyricist marked a change in direction for Neil Sedaka’s songwriting.
From the upbeat, sunshine-infused, almost cartoon-ish mood of those songs from the early years, Neil Sedaka songs of the 1970s took a more thoughtful, melancholy turn with Phil Cody on lyric-writing duty.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the lyrics Phil Cody wrote for “Solitaire”…
There was a man, a lonely man
Who lost his love through his indifference
A heart that cared, that went unshared
And slowly died…