Mary Hopkin was/is/probably always will be frighteningly adorable to me. I liked her from the start after I saw a photo of her holding a guitar over her shoulder and walking across an open field. I don't know what about that photo I liked so much -- without knowing anything about her at all, I still would admire her for her folky carefree demeanor and innocent look. Also I really liked her hair, so that probably had something to do with it. Then I actually learned about her. If you can honestly say that when you were 17 or 18 years old, you had several number one singles and could call Paul McCartney, Twiggy, Donovan, and George Harrison among your nearest and dearest, then you deserve some real respect.
This Welsh folk-pop singer (born in Wales in 1950) rose to fame in the late sixties as one of the first artists to be signed to the Beatles' Apple Records. She was 'discovered' in 1968 after Twiggy caught a performance of Hopkin's on a local TV show (prophetically called "Opportunity Knocks") and immediately called Paul McCartney to check her out. After signing with Apple, her first single "Those Were the Days" was released to great success in August 1968, becoming a worldwide hit (Disclaimer: this song is a very guilty pleasure of mine. I listen to it rather obsessively). Both the single, and her accompanying album "Postcard" were produced by Paul McCartney. Also aiding in her debut effort were Beatles producer George Martin, and singer-songwriters Harry Nilsson and Donovan. Other successful singles were "Goodbye" (written by McCartney, and only kept off the top spot in the UK by another McCartney song "Get Back"), "Temma Harbour," "Qué Sera, Sera" and "Knock, Kock, Who's There?" which Hopkin performed at the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest as a representative of the UK.
After the Beatles disbanded, Paul McCartney sought a solo career and was no longer in the position as Hopkin's mentor and aide at Apple. Instead, Apple promoted Hopkin as a squeaky-clean folkish singer somewhat akin to a schoolgirl, much to Hopkin's annoyance. She grew increasingly disenchanted with the sugary pop world in which she had become associated with, and weary of the music business in general. Her second album, "Earth Song, Ocean Song" (released in late 1971) was in the style of music that she wanted to perform, but Apple didn't agree. Though it is said this album is one of Mary Hopkin's personal favorites of the work she's produced, she largely had to produce the album herself. Mary Hopkin ended up leaving Apple after completing two albums and one best-of release, and married producer Tony Visconti in 1971. She retreated from the music industry after that, instead concentrating on a family. Her unexpected retirement of sorts confused many in the music industry at the time, because Hopkin was at a high point in her career. She had a son Delaney in 1972 and a daughter Jessica in 1976. She continued recording on a more low-key basis throughout the seventies, appearing on many of her husband's productions as Mary Visconti (including tracks for Tom Paxton, David Bowie, Thin Lizzy, and many others) and participating in music festivals and concerts occasionally. She released a new album in 1976 under her own name, releasing as her first single a cover of the Edith Piaf recording "If You Love Me (I Won't Care)." This album marked the first time where the majority of the material on the album was composed by Hopkin herself. She has since regularly released albums over the last several decades, and even opened her own label Mary Hopkin Music. Despite her many albums and appearances since her impromptu 'retirement' in the early seventies, Hopkin says that with each new album she never aspires to make a comeback as a singer. She is happy enough by making music when she wants to, and travelling to different countries infitting with her admittedly nomadic lifestyle.
A big special thank-you to Pat at the Mary Hopkin News Page for so many wonderful photos!