Mary Hopkin biography

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Mary Hopkin

Last updated: 19 November 2008

Mary Hopkin, after singing on Opportunity Knocks, became one of the stars of The Beatles' Apple label.

Born in 1950 in Pontardawe, Mary Hopkin's singing began while she was still a schoolgirl. Starting out in a local folk band, the Selby Set & Mary, she also released several Welsh-language albums on local label Cambrian Recordings.

I really love writing and singing but I don't like performing. In fact I'm thinking of putting some of my music on a website

Mary Hopkin

Mary's fortunes changed dramatically in 1968 following an appearance on the TV talent show Opportunity Knocks, where she performed Turn Turn Turn. It was indeed to be a turning point in her life.

She won the competition, and the following Monday received a telegram asking her to call Apple Records. She did, and spoke to Paul McCartney, who asked her to come up to London the next day for an audition.

Mary recorded eight songs that day, and was offered a recording contract on the spot. The song Those Were The Days was chosen as her first single, and it looked to be an instant success - her success in Opportunity Knocks had already made her a household name. She was just 18 years old.

However, it wasn't all plain sailing. News came through that Sandie Shaw had also recorded Those Were The Days, and was rushing it out to coincide with Mary's release date of 30 August 1968. Apple took out ads in the music press which said, "Listen to Mary Hopkin sing Those Were The Days. Listen to Sandie Shaw's version. Then buy the one you like".

The gamble paid off. Mary's version topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Its follow-up, Goodbye, was written by Paul McCartney, who was also produced her first album, Postcard. With cover versions of Donovan's Lord Of The Reedy River and Happiness Runs, much of Postcard featured songs that weren't best suited to her voice.

The single Temma Harbour, produced by Mickey Most, reached the Top 10, and Knock, Knock, Who's There? was Britain's 1970 Eurovision entry. She came second.

Her last top 20 hit was Think About Your Children, a song written by Hot Chocolate. By this time, Mary had become increasingly unhappy at the material she was being given to sing, although there were high points.

Her album Earth Song/Ocean Song, released in 1970, remains to this day the album Mary is most pleased with, considering it to be more her style than her previous releases. Earth Song/Ocean Song featured Danny Thompson from Pentangle on double bass, Ralph McTell on guitar and Dave Cousins from The Strawbs on guitar.

The album's release marked the end of her tenure with Apple. Mary temporarily retired from recording, married producer Tony Visconti, and mostly left the music business to bring up her children.

But she sporadically returned to recording, working with former members of the Springfields and ELO, appearing on George Martin's production of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, and guesting on The Crocketts' album The Great Brain Robbery.

In 2005, her classic 1972 concert at the Royal Festival Hall was released via her website, getting a wider release the following year. She rounded off 2006 with a Christmas download-only single, Snowed Under, with the promise of new recordings to come.

Mary's next three albums, Valentine (2007), Recollections (2008) and Now And Then (2009) are available as the Archive Set, featuring previously unreleased music from 1973 to 1983.


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