Mary Hopkin at the Eurovision Song Contest 1970
|Born||3 May 1950|
Mary Hopkin (born 3 May 1950), credited on some recordings as Mary Visconti (from her marriage to Tony Visconti), is a Welsh folk singer best known for her 1968 UK number one single "Those Were the Days". She was one of the first musicians to sign to the Beatles' Apple label.
Hopkin was born in Pontardawe, Wales, into a Welsh-speaking family; her father worked as a housing officer. She took weekly singing lessons as a child and began her musical career as a folk singer with a local group called the Selby Set and Mary. She released an EP of Welsh-language songs for a local record label called Cambrian, based in her home town, before signing to Apple Records, owned by the Beatles, one of the first artists to do so. The model Twiggy saw her winning the British ITV television talent show Opportunity Knocks and recommended her to Paul McCartney.
Her debut single, "Those Were the Days", produced by McCartney, was released in the UK on 30 August 1968. Despite competition from well-established star Sandie Shaw, whose single was also released that year, Hopkin's version became a number 1 hit on the UK Singles Chart. It reached number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, where for three weeks it was held out of the top spot by the Beatles' "Hey Jude", and spent two weeks at number 1 on Canada's RPM singles chart. It sold over 1,500,000 copies in the United States alone, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. Global sales topped 8,000,000.
On 2 October 1968, Hopkin appeared at St Paul's Cathedral in London for the Pop Experience, where she sang "Morning of My Life", "Turn Turn Turn" and "Plaisir d'amour". In December that year, the NME music magazine reported that Hopkin was considering a lead acting role in Stanley Baker's forthcoming film, The Rape of the Fair Country. That particular project did not materialise but Hopkin did sing the title songs to two of Baker's films, Where's Jack? and Kidnapped.
On 21 February 1969, her debut album, Postcard, again produced by McCartney, was released. It included covers of three songs from Donovan, who also played on the album, and one song each from George Martin and Harry Nilsson. It reached number 3 on the UK Albums Chart, although it proved to be her solitary success in that chart. In the United States, Postcard reached number 28 on the Billboard albums chart.
The next single was "Goodbye", written by McCartney (credited to Lennon-McCartney), and released on 26 March 1969. It reached number 2 on the UK Singles Chart, where it was kept from the top by the Beatles' "Get Back", number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 15 on the RPM chart in Canada. Hopkin said she interpreted "Goodbye" as McCartney pledging to stop "micromanaging" her career, since she was uncomfortable with his positioning of her as a pop chanteuse. She also expressed dissatisfaction with her manager at this time, Terry Doran.
Hopkin's third single, "Temma Harbour", was a re-arrangement of a Philamore Lincoln song. It was released on 16 January 1970 and peaked at number 6 in the UK in February and number 42 in Canada in April. In March, she represented the United Kingdom in the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest, achieving second place with "Knock, Knock Who's There?" Author and historian John Kennedy O'Connor writes in The Eurovision Song Contest - The Official History that she gave a very comfortable performance and sang in a crystal-clear voice, but despite being the pre-contest favourite, Hopkin came second to "All Kinds of Everything", performed by Irish singer Dana. "Knock, Knock Who's There?" was released as a single on 23 March 1970 and became Hopkin's second number 2 UK hit.
At McCartney's insistence, she recorded a cover of "Que Sera, Sera", which reached number 47 as a single in Canada that August. Hopkin had no wish to record the song and refused to have the single released in Britain. Along with Donovan and Billy Preston, she was one of the chorus singers on the Radha Krishna Temple's 1970 hit single "Govinda", produced by George Harrison for Apple Records.
Hopkin's second album, Earth Song, Ocean Song, was released by Apple on 1 October 1971. The record was produced by her husband Tony Visconti and included cover versions of songs written by Cat Stevens, Gallagher and Lyle, and Ralph McTell, and the two title tracks by Liz Thorsen. Hopkin felt it was the album she had always wanted to make, so, coinciding with getting married and with little left to prove, she left the music scene.
Following her appearance in the Eurovision contest, Hopkin had her own peak time TV series on BBC1, titled Mary Hopkin in the Land of ... Created by Eric Merriman, each episode featured Hopkin looking at a different aspect of storytelling through music and dancing. The six 30-minute programmes were broadcast in the autumn of 1970 and were repeated in 1971.
After marrying Visconti in 1971, Hopkin withdrew from the pop-music scene to have a family. Although reportedly unhappy with show business, she did not stop recording. She travelled to Australia with Visconti in January 1972 and performed at a large outdoor rock festival in South Australia, in addition to giving concerts in several major cities. In March, Hopkin announced her departure from Apple Records; her manager, Jo Lustig, said they were considering offers from "three major [record] companies". In June, the single "Summertime Summertime" / "Sweet and Low" was released on Bell Records under the name of Hobby Horse. The A-side was a cover of a 1958 song by the Jamies. With Visconti's assistance, she released the 1972 Christmas single "Mary Had a Baby" / "Cherry Tree Carol" on Regal Zonophone Records.
Hopkin starred in her own, one-off TV special for BBC1 on 29 July 1972. Titled Sing Hi, Sing Lo, it was billed simply as "light entertainment starring Mary Hopkin".
Although no other singles or albums came out in her name until 1976, she sang on numerous recordings that her husband produced, such as those featuring Tom Paxton, Ralph McTell, David Bowie (Low), Bert Jansch, The Radiators from Space, Thin Lizzy, Carmen, Sarstedt Brothers, Osibisa, Sparks, Hazel O'Connor, and Elaine Paige. On all of these recordings (and also on her husband's own Inventory album) she is credited as "Mary Visconti". During this time, she also appeared on various TV shows such as Cilla Black's, and various radio programmes.
In 1976, she returned to recording under her birth name and released the single "If You Love Me (Really Love Me)" (originally recorded by Édith Piaf), which reached Number 32 in the UK chart. The B-side, "Tell Me Now", was an original composition by Hopkin. Her next single was "Wrap Me in Your Arms", with the B-side again written by Hopkin ("Just A Dreamer"). These singles came out on Visconti's Good Earth Records label. Several songs recorded for an album at the time have now been released under Hopkin's own label, Mary Hopkin Music.
Two members of Steeleye Span (Bob Johnson and Pete Knight) chose Hopkin to play "Princess Lirazel" on their concept album The King of Elfland's Daughter. She also appeared at the Cambridge Folk Festival with Bert Jansch. 1976 also saw the birth of her second child. Before the 1970s ended, Decca released a compilation album of Hopkin's Cambrian recordings The Welsh World of Mary Hopkin.
Hopkin's first project in the 1980s was a well-reviewed stint playing the Virgin Mary in Rock Nativity at the Hexagon Theatre in Reading, Berkshire. After this, Mike Hurst (record producer and formerly of The Springfields) asked her to sing lead in a new group named Sundance that he had formed with Mike de Albuquerque of ELO. Their only single, "What's Love", allowed them to tour the UK with Dr. Hook but Hopkin quickly left the group, dissatisfied with the gigs. "What's Love" proved very popular in South Africa, albeit the only territory that it charted, where it peaked at no.10 in April 1982. In 2002, Hurst released recordings from this time on the Angel Air label.
Hopkin and Visconti divorced in 1981. The following year she provided melismatic vocals on "Rachel's Song" for the Vangelis soundtrack of Blade Runner. Around 1984, Peter Skellern asked her to join him and Julian Lloyd Webber in a band called Oasis. Their album Oasis was released on WEA along with two singles. A tour of the UK was planned but was brought to an abrupt end because Hopkin became ill. The group disbanded shortly afterwards.
During the 1980s Hopkin appeared in several charity shows, including an appearance at the London Palladium with Ralph McTell. In 1988, she took part in George Martin's production of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood. She played the character Rosie Probert and notably performed a piece called "Love Duet" with Freddie Jones as Captain Cat. The making of the record was filmed and made into a special edition of The South Bank Show, where Hopkin and Jones were shown rehearsing and recording "Love Duet". In 1992, the cast reunited for a performance of the play as a tribute to Thomas in the presence of Prince Charles for The Prince's Trust.
Hopkin recorded an album called Spirit in 1989. This was released on the Trax label and is a collection of light classical songs and featured the single "Ave Maria". The record was produced by Benny Gallagher of Gallagher and Lyle, who had contributed songs to her during her days at Apple Records.
She continued to do projects of her choosing, working with people such as Julian Colbeck; she wrote the lyrics and performed a song on his CD Back to Bach. Also, there was Marc Cerrone's The Collector, a stage play/opera, for which she performed two songs on the CD and video. She worked again with old friends, the guitarist Brian Willoughby and Dave Cousins (of Strawbs) on their CD The Bridge. She also appeared on a Beatles' tribute album by RAM Pietsch.
In 1996, the Welsh label Sain bought Cambrian's back catalogue and released all of Hopkin's Welsh recordings on a CD called Y Caneuon Cynnar/The Early Recordings, which removed the overdubbed drums found on the Decca recordings.
In 1999, she again joined The Chieftains on their UK tour and, later that year, performed concerts in Scotland with Benny Gallagher and Jim Diamond. There were also three TV documentaries about her, one each for HTV (1998), BBC Television (1998) and S4C (2000).
She made a guest appearance on The Crocketts' album The Great Brain Robbery, sang the theme song for Billy Connolly's BBC TV series World Tour of England, Ireland and Wales and re-recorded "Those Were The Days" with Robin Williams rapping. She also appeared in the Sara Sugarman film Very Annie Mary.
In September 2005 she released a retrospective album on a label run by her daughter, Mary Hopkin Music, entitled Live at the Royal Festival Hall 1972. It was followed in December 2006 by a Christmas recording, "Snowed Under", released on download only.
To celebrate her 57th birthday in 2007, she released an album called Valentine on her new eponymous label. It included 12 previously unheard tracks dating from 1972 to 1980, three of which were written by Hopkin. In 2008, a new album, Recollections, was released on her own label. It included 11 tracks that were originally recorded between 1970 and 1986, alongside a CD of three Christmas songs which included "Mary Had a Baby" and "The Cherry-Tree Carol" (these tracks were first released on Regal Zonophone in 1972) and "Snowed Under", which was released in 2006 as a download only.
In May 2009 her final archival CD, Now and Then, was released. It comprises 14 tracks recorded between 1970 and 1988. She sang the song "Y 'deryn pur" ("Gentle Bird") on the album Blodeugerdd: Song of the Flowers - An Anthology of Welsh Music and Song released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in June 2009.
Hopkin's daughter, Jessica Lee Morgan, released her first CD, called I Am Not, on which Hopkin sings on a couple of songs.
In October 2010, Hopkin and her son, Morgan Visconti, released You Look Familiar a collaboration which brings together Hopkin's melodies, lyrics and vocals with her son's instrumentation and arrangements.
In 2013, Painting by Numbers was released on Mary Hopkin Music. The album includes 10 tracks written by Hopkin, two of which are co-written with friends; "Love Belongs Right Here" with Brian Willoughby and "Love, Long Distance" with Benny Gallagher.
For Christmas 2014 Hopkin recorded a single with her son and daughter. The traditional carol, "Iesu Faban" (meaning 'Baby Jesus' in Welsh), was described on her website as a "close, intimate choral performance of a traditional Welsh Christmas carol".
|UK||GER||SUI||US Billboard Hot 100||US Adult Contemporary|
|1968||"Those Were The Days"||1||1||1||2||1|
|"Knock, Knock Who's There?"||2||12||92||11|
|"Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)"||77||7|
|"Think About Your Children"||19||87||27|
|1971||"Let My Name Be Sorrow"||46|
|1972||"Water, Paper & Clay"||113|
|1976||"If You Love Me (Really Love Me)"||32|