Audio: Bette Midler – Superstar – (Burt Bacharach Special) – 1973
- Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett wrote this song, which is about a woman who falls for a rock star, has a tryst with him, but then in a bout of delusion awaits his return, apparently falling for it when he said he loved her.
The word “Groupie” was just entering the lexicon when Russell and Bramlett wrote this song in 1969; Rolling Stone popularized it when they titled the cover story of their February 15, 1969 issue “The Groupies and Other Girls.” Groupies were often romanticized and admired for their style and fashion, but they were also at times denigrated as rock star playthings with a loose grip on reality, which is how they are portrayed in this song.
- Delaney & Bonnie were the first to record this song, releasing it as the B-side of their 1969 single “Comin’ Home.” At the time, the song was called “Groupie (Superstar).” Rita Coolidge then began performing the song on Joe Cocker’s 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. A young Bette Midler started performing the song later in the year, and Richard Carpenter heard the song for the first time when Bette Midler performed it on The Tonight Show. Richard knew it could be a hit for the Carpenters, so he reworked the song in their style and recorded it, resulting in the most successful version. (Thanks to Dan Levitin, who got this from an interview with Richard Carpenter.)
- A line in the second verse was considered too lyrically risqué at the time and was changed by Richard Carpenter to better fit the duo’s image. The Carpenters’ version of the lyric, “And I can hardly wait to be with you again” is “And I can hardly wait to sleep with you again” in the original version.
- Richard Carpenter received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist for this song. It was the second of five nominations Carpenter received for his arrangements. He didn’t win any, although this is an impressive accomplishment.
- When the Carpenters version became a hit, Bette Midler took some shots at Karen Carpenter, often mocking her wholesome image. Karen claimed the jokes didn’t bother her, and after her death, Midler apologized in Redbook magazine and said she often thinks of Karen.
- In 1987, a movie called Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story was released and shown at film festivals. The director, Todd Haynes, didn’t secure the rights to the songs, and the film was pulled after Richard Carpenter filed suit.
- The alternative rock band Sonic Youth covered this in 1994 for the Carpenters tribute album If I Were A Carpenter. Released as a single with Redd Kross’ version of “Yesterday Once More” as the listed flip side, it peaked at #45 in the UK. Sonic Youth’s version later featured in the 2007 movie Juno where Jason Bateman’s character plays it to Juno. It is included on the film’s soundtrack.
- In the movie Tommy Boy, Chris Farley and David Spade cry their eyes out listening to this song, which plays as they are driving along. They hit a moose before the song ends
- Luther Vandross did a medley of this song and “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” that reached #87 in 1984.
- Ruben Studdard brought this song to a new audience when he performed it on Season 2 of American Idol. He won the competition, and “Superstar” was released as his first single along with “Flying Without Wings,” which for chart purposes was designated as the A-side and reached #2 behind “This Is The Night” from Clay Aiken, who finished second to Studdard on the show.