When The Beatles formed their own label, Apple, in 1968, they didn’t want it to exist only for their albums. They also wanted to make it possible for other aspiring pop stars to be heard.
They scored a notable success that year with Mary Hopkin (born in 1950 in Glamorganshire, Wales), an angelic lass with a gorgeous voice and a gift for folk-styled pop music.
With songs like Those Were The Days and Goodbye, Hopkin sold millions of records and became internationally famous in the process.
Mary Hopkin was a natural troubadour and had been singing in folk and pop groups since her teens by the time she was discovered in 1968.
Her lucky break arrived when she appeared on the UK television show Opportunity Knocks to sing Turn Turn Turn.
He was looking for talent to add to the Apple record label and realised that Hopkin fit the bill when he heard her lovely voice. He promptly signed her to the label and took her into the studio to produce her first single.
The first result of Hopkin and McCartney’s creative teaming was Those Were The Days, a ballad based on a traditional Ukrainian folk song. Its gentle mixture of traditional folk sounds and Hopkin’s angelic soprano voice made it one of the biggest international hits of the year. It went to #1 in the UK and #2 in the US, aided by a performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Hopkin also recorded this song in Spanish, French, German, Italian and Hebrew, and these alternate versions helped add to the song’s international appeal. By early 1969, it had sold 8 million copies around the world.
In March 1969, Mary Hopkin released her first album, Post Card, produced by McCartney and featuring songs by such noted songwriters as Harry Nilsson and Donovan. It became an international hit, as did its first single, the McCartney-penned Goodbye.
The next year, she began experimenting with less-folky pop material like Temma Harbour, which became a Top-40 hit for Hopkin in the US.
In 1970, Hopkin’s Knock Knock, Who’s There? was chosen as the UK entry into the Eurovision Song Contest. The contest was won by Eire’s entry, Dana, singing All Kinds of Everything.
In 1971, she released the album Earth Song – Ocean Song, whose rustic sound returned her to her first love, folk music.
Around this time, Mary met her future husband, record producer Tony Visconti, while recording more foreign-language versions of her songs.
Marrying Visconti (and leaving Apple), Mary decided to devote time to her new marriage and start a family.
She remained inactive for much of the decade, but would record the occasional single. She also popped up on other artists’ work from time to time, most notably lending some distinctive background vocals to David Bowie‘s 1977 UK hit, Sound and Vision.
Mary continued to record throughout the Seventies, usually produced by her new husband. After a brief retirement to devote time to her family, Hopkin resurfaced in 1981 as part of a harmony trio called Sundance who supported Dr Hook on a UK tour.
Shortly after, she parted company with both Sundance and her husband (entering into a relationship with Dr Hook vocalist Dennis Locorriere) and in 1984 worked as lead vocalist for a group called Oasis (not the Gallagher brothers band) which featured Julian Lloyd-Webber on cello.
Post-1984, Hopkin slipped quietly into oblivion, before a 1989 comeback album, Spirit and a return to the stage in 1991 at the London Palladium.
Mary Hopkin continues to be involved in music today and contributes to the occasional record or concert.
Through collaborations with folk artists like Ralph McTell, she remains a presence on the English folk scene.
Mary Hopkin’s classic album Post Card has also been reissued in recent years, ensuring that modern-day pop fans can continue to enjoy her music.
No matter what the current fashion in pop music may be, Mary Hopkin’s classic style of pop will always sound good.