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Mary Hopkin

Born 3 May 1950, Pontardawe, Neath Port Talbot in Wales, MARY HOPKIN will always be synonymous with her inaugural chart-topping record, `Those Were The Days’. Having only just turned 18 and signed to the newly-founded BEATLES corporation, Apple (through English fashion model/icon Twiggy and a win on telly fame show Opportunity Knocks), the waifish pop soprano was the toast of the Welsh valleys; the song itself stemmed from Gene Raskin (a one-time pensmith for The LIMELITERS), who’d turned an ordinary traditional Russian folk tune into one of the biggest hits of 1968.
Sat in between a few French or Welsh-only 45s, `Goodbye’ was another to hit the charts, while her PAUL McCARTNEY-produced debut LP, POST CARD (1969) {*7}, had nostalgic nuggets next to a handful of folk dirges from the likes of DONOVAN – three in fact: `Lord Of The Reedy River’, `Voyages Of The Moon’ and `Happiness Runs’; a young NILSSON supplied `The Puppy Song’, and George Martin `The Game’. Although it sold in reasonably high quantities, HOPKIN was duly groomed as a singles artists, with producer Mickie Most behind hits such as `Temma Harbour’, `Knock Knock, Who’s There?’ (the UK’s 1970 entry for the Eurovision Song Contest and second to Irish equivalent, Dana), `Think About Your Children’ and `Let My Name Be Sorrow’.
Finally delivered toward the end of 1971, EARTH SONG / OCEAN SONG {*6} was her swansong for Apple Records. Produced by hubby Tony Visconti (more famous for his BOWIE connections) and bolstered by the upright bass of DANNY THOMPSON and an appearance from RALPH McTELL, the AOR-folk set featured the work of McTELL himself (`Streets Of London’), CAT STEVENS (`The Wind’) and GALLAGHER & LYLE (`International’).
An all-too-brief return to the Top 40 in 1976 via `If You Love Me’ (an old Edith Piaf cut) was soon forgotten, although not many will know of her subsequent backing vocal contributions (as Mary Visconti) alongside IGGY POP on the Thin White Duke’s seminal `Low’ set; one could look out too for the singer working on records by BERT JANSCH, TOM PAXTON, THIN LIZZY, SPARKS, HAZEL O’CONNOR, et al. Around the same time in ’77, Mary was also part of the folk-infused Elfland Ensemble with DEREK BRIMSTONE, while her contributions to the fantasy album, `The King Of Elfland’s Daughter’ by Bob Johnson & Peter Knight, were also noteworthy.
In October ‘81, divorced from Visconti, Mary teamed up with Mike Hurst (ex-SPRINGFIELDS) and Mike D’Arbuquerque (ex-ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA) to form one-off harmony trio Sundance; they released a single, `What’s Love’ / `A Song’ (for Bronze Records). With her career waning and in decline (a serious illness didn’t help), spring ’84 saw her back in the UK Top 30 by way of highbrow quintet, Oasis (and their eponymous `Oasis’ set), who included PETER SKELLERN, Julian Lloyd Webber, Bill Lovelady and Mitch Dalton; two singles were also issued, `Hold Me’ and `I Wonder Why’.
Towards the end of the 80s, HOPKIN was part of George Martin’s production of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, taking the role of Rosie Probert. Having released an album of classical pieces in SPIRIT (1989) {*5}, the 1990s brought her back into the limelight more prominently courtesy of projects with the CHIEFTAINS, Julian Colbeck, DAVE COUSINS and Brian Willoughby, The Crocketts, BILLY CONNOLLY and DOLLY PARTON.
Post-millennium, Mary, surfaced several times on her own self-named label (mainly “Recollections” of her early songs); fresh sets YOU LOOK FAMILIAR (2010) {*6} – with son Morgan Visconti – and the self-penned “stripped down” PAINTING BY NUMBERS (2014) {*6} were strictly aimed at the MOR market and her loyal fanbase.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2016

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