Carlos first came to prominence in 1968 with Switched-On Bach, a recording of music by J.S. Bach assembled phrase-by-phrase on a Moog synthesizer, at the time a relatively new and unknown instrument. The album earned three Grammy Awards in 1969. Other classical recordings followed. Carlos later began releasing original compositions, including the first-ever album of synthesized environmental sounds, Sonic Seasonings (1972) and an album exploring alternate tunings Beauty in the Beast (1986). She has also worked in film music, notably writing and performing scores for two Stanley Kubrick movies, A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980), as well as Walt Disney's Tron (1982).
Carlos became aware of her gender dysphoria from an early age, stating "I was about five or six...I remember being convinced I was a little girl, much preferring long hair and girls' clothes, and not knowing why my parents didn't see it clearly". In 1962 (age 22) when she moved to New York City to attend graduate school at Columbia University she came into contact for the first time with information about transgenderism. In early 1968 she began hormone treatments and soon began living full-time as a woman. After the success of Switched-On Bach, in May 1972 Carlos finally was able to undergo sex reassignment surgery.
Carlos chose to announce herself as the featured interview in May 1979's Playboy magazine, picking Playboy because "The magazine has always been concerned with liberation, and I'm anxious to liberate myself." She has since come to regret the interview, creating a "Shortlist Of The Cruel" page on her web site, and awarding the editors of the magazine three "Black Leafs" indicating that she believes they are "Arrogant selfish prig[s], with a genuine sadistic streak". [link]