Bonnie Tyler (born Gaynor Hopkins on 8 June 1951) is a Welsh singer. She was born in Skewen, Wales, and spent seven years performing in pubs and clubs around South Wales before being signed to RCA Records in 1975. Tyler came to prominence with the release of her 1977 album The World Starts Tonight and its singles "Lost in France" and "More Than a Lover". Her 1978 single "It's a Heartache" was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching number 4 in the UK and number 3 in the US. After winning the 10th World Popular Song Festival for the UK in 1979, Tyler converted from country music to rock music.Her career peaked in the 1980s when she collaborated with Jim Steinman, releasing international hits "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "Holding Out for a Hero". Tyler's success in this period culminated in two Brit Award and three Grammy Award nominations. Her album Faster Than the Speed of Night entered the UK Albums Chart at No.1 in 1983.
Early Life Edit
Gaynor Hopkins was born in Skewen, Wales on 8 June 1951. Her father, Glyn Hopkins, was a coal miner and her mother, Elsie Hopkins, was a housewife and member of the local church choir. Hopkins was brought up in a deeply religious Protestant family. The Hopkins family were all music lovers; "we used to have a very old radiogram," Tyler recalled, "and there was always music on in the house." Her mother listened to opera music, and her siblings listened to artists and groups such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and The Beatles, while Hopkins listened to Motown music and female artists such as Janis Joplin and Tina Turner (then working with Ike Turner). She concluded her education in the 1960s, leaving school with no qualifications, and began working in the local grocery shop.
In April 1969, when she was aged 17, Hopkins's aunt entered her in a local talent contest. She sang the Mary Hopkin hit "Those Were the Days" and the Ray Charles song "I Can't Stop Loving You", finishing in second place (losing to an accordionist), and won £1. She later successfully auditioned to join Bobby Wayne & The Dixies as a backing singer after finding an advert in a local newspaper. Two years later, she formed her own band called Imagination (not related to the 1980s British dance band of the same name) and performed with them in pubs and clubs all over southern Wales. It was then that she decided to adopt the stage name of "Sherene Davis", taking the names from her niece's forename and favourite aunt's surname. Despite the two name changes, her family and friends still know her as Gaynor.
On 14 July 1973, she married Robert Sullivan, an estate agent and Swansea night club manager who had represented the UK at the 1972 Munich Olympics as a judoka. In the following year, Davis and Imagination performed "Armed and Extremely Dangerous" on the British television talent show New Faces, coming fourth out of seven contestants. She quoted Mickie Most as saying "The girl has got something but the boys are just playing away." Embarrassed to speak between songs when performing in South Wales, Davis began attending elocution lessons to neutralize her Welsh accent, but gave up after six weeks. In 1975, Roger Bell, working for Chapel Music at the time, visited a music club in South Wales to see some record contract hopefuls, but came in on the wrong floor to find Hopkins singing "Nutbush City Limits" with Imagination. She was invited to London to record a handful of demos, and months later she received a phone call from RCA Records asking to sign her to a record contract. Before signing, another name change was recommended. She compiled a list of surnames and Christian names and settled on "Bonnie Tyler".
Early Success: 1976 - 1981 Edit
1976–81: Early Success Edit
Tyler began by recording a track entitled "My! My! Honeycomb", which did not garner any chart success, but did gain local airplay in Swansea. RCA Records increased the promotional backing of her second single, "Lost in France", flying a party of journalists to meet Tyler at a château in France. The single did not find immediate chart success, but instead grew slowly. After six weeks, "Lost in France" finally entered the UK Top 50 and peaked at number 9, remaining in the top of the charts for ten weeks. Amidst the promotional effort accompanying the new single, Tyler found her vocals adopting a raspy quality and was diagnosed with large vocal nodules that needed to be urgently treated. After failing to observe the six weeks of vocal rest advised by her doctor, her voice was left with a permanent husky sound which became her career trademark. Tyler's career continued regardless, and she was announced as the support act during Gene Pitney's tour in February 1977.
The success of the single saw Tyler nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Newcomer in 1977. She was voted sixth in Record Mirror's "Brightest Hope for '77'" category, leading to the release of her debut album, The World Starts Tonight, in 1977. With the lead single also achieving chart success in Europe, a second single was released in the UK. "More Than a Lover" was banned from being shown on TV by the BBC due to "unsuitable lyrical content," hampering chart success, though the single did make the UK Top 30. The World Starts Tonight was viewed as being "filled with promise and indications of great things to come," though during press interviews in 1976, Tyler admitted that the lead single of the album wasn't her preferred style, and that her interest lay in funkier music.
In the summer of 1977, a new single entitled "Heaven" was released, met with mixed reviews from music critics, and failed to chart well in the UK, though it did reach the Top 30 in Germany. Promotion for the single was hindered by the death of Elvis Presley, which diverted RCA's capabilities. The next single was "It's a Heartache", which made Bonnie Tyler an international star. Her vocals were instantly compared to Rod Stewart's due to the distinct raspy quality that she had developed. The song reached No. 4 in the UK, No. 3 in the US, No. 2 in Germany, and also achieved chart success in France and Australia. The single went on to be certified Gold in the US, Canada and the UK, and Platinum in France, had Tyler coming tenth place in Record Mirror's "Best Female Singer" of 1977, and she was also given a Bravo Otto award in Germany for her success in Europe. The third single, "Here Am I", followed in spring 1978, failing to follow the success of "It's a Heartache" but did make the German Top 20. With those two singles Tyler held the third and fourth spot in the Norwegian singles chart for a week in 1978. Natural Force included a cover of the Carole King song "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman". Tyler performed the song live in Los Angeles in front of King, who approached her afterwards to compliment her on the interpretation. The success of Natural Force led to RCA Records releasing Tyler's first compilation album. "The Hits of Bonnie Tyler", which contained a handful of A-Sides and B-Sides fleshed out with several tracks from The World Starts Tonight, made the top ten in several European countries and reached number one in the Norwegian Albums Chart.
Tyler's next album, Diamond Cut, was released in 1979. Again unable to penetrate the UK Album Charts, and with no success in the US, the album only saw mediocre success in Europe. It charted within the Top 20 in the Swedish Album Charts, and number 42 in the US Country charts. British promotion was limited; Tyler performed at the 1979 Longleat Country Music Festival in June, alongside Johnny Cash, Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson. Tyler followed this with her first tour of Japan. The single "My Guns Are Loaded" peaked at number 3 in France and 10 in Canada. Its follow-up single "Too Good to Last" reached number six in Spain.
In the same year, she recorded "(The World Is Full of) Married Men", the theme to the film of the same name. It became a minor UK Top 40 hit in the summer. Contemporary reviews of the single were negative; Record Mirror's reviewer said "Bonnie stops chewing gravel for a minute or two..." and continued with "she ends up sandpapering my eardrums again. Ouch." Tyler appeared on the film credits performing the song. Of all four of Tyler's albums with Scott and Wolfe's involvement, this album received the most positive review. Tomas Mureika (of Allmusic) reviewed all four of Tyler's 1977–80 albums, often stating that they simply "paved the way" for her teaming with Jim Steinman, though declared Diamond Cut to be the high point of her early career, "and a dynamite showcase for Tyler's inimitable voice." Record Mirror's Kelly Pike gave the album three stars out of five, stating that "only a minority of the material [was] holding her back," and that the album is "essential listening" for Country music fans.
Tyler's final album with RCA was Goodbye to the Island in 1981; a more upbeat collection of songs compared to her previous album. The album was mainly recorded in the Algarve, Portugal, using the RAK Mobile recording facility. The track "Sitting on the Edge of the Ocean" was the Grand Prix winner of the 1979 Yamaha World Song Festival held in Tokyo. The track was also recorded in Spanish and entitled "Sola A La Orilla Del Mar" and released in Argentina and Spain in the same year. The single "I Believe in Your Sweet Love" was listed as a single of the week in 1979 by Daniela Soava from Record Mirror. The album received the lowest rating of Tyler's four Scott & Wolfe albums, receiving 3 out of 5 stars from Allmusic. By this time, other music critics saw Tyler as "doomed to be a one-hit wonder". Tyler stated that a woman once turned to her in a club with pennies in her hand and said, "ere you are, love. You’ll need them before long. You’ll just be a one-hit wonder." Despite this, she continued to have success in the next decade.
Phil Hendricks from Cherry Records said that Tyler "prove[d] time and time again that she was one of those rare artists who was able to take the odd chart flop on the chin and bounce back having suffered little collateral damage."
Before travelling to New York to begin the peak of her career with Jim Steinman, Tyler recorded one more single called "Sayonara Tokyo", which was released in Japan.