Mary Hopkin

Mary Hopkin

Mary Hopkin (born May 3 1950) is a Welsh folk singer. She is best known as one of the first artists (along with James Taylor) to sign to the Beatles' Apple Records label.


Early singing career

Mary was born in Pontardawe, Wales to a Welsh-speaking family and began her musical career as a folk singer with a local group called the Selby Set and Mary. She released an EP of Welsh language songs for a local record label called Cambrian who were based in her home town, before signing to the Beatles' Apple Records. The model Twiggy saw her winning the British ITV television talent show Opportunity Knocks and recommended her to Paul McCartney. She became one of the first artists to record on the Beatles' Apple record label.

Her debut single, "Those Were the Days", produced by Paul McCartney, was released in the UK on August 30 1968 (catalogue number APPLE 2). Despite competition from a well-established star, Sandie Shaw, who released her version of the same song as a single that same year, Hopkin's version became a number one hit in the UK singles chart, and reached #2 in the United States. On 2 October 1968 Hopkin appeared at St Paul's Cathedral, London for the "Pop Experience" where she sang "Morning Of My Life," "Turn Turn Turn," and "Plaisir D'amour." On 21 February 1969 her debut album, Postcard, also produced by McCartney, was released. It included covers of three songs from Donovan, who also played on the album, and one song each from George Martin and Harry Nilsson. It reached number three on the UK Albums Chart, although it proved to be her solitary success story in that particular chart.

The next single was "Goodbye," written by Paul McCartney (but credited to Lennon-McCartney), released on 28 March 1969 (APPLE 10); it reached #2 in the UK singles chart. It was kept off the top of the charts by the Beatles' single Get Back. "Goodbye" has never been officially released by the Beatles, although a demo version can be found on some of the Beatles' bootlegs.

She represented the United Kingdom in the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest singing "Knock Knock, Who's There?". Author & Historian John Kennedy O'Connor notes in The Eurovision Song Contest — The Official History, that she gave a very comfortable performance and sang in a crystal clear voice, but despite being the pre-contest favourite, Mary came second to "All Kinds of Everything", performed by Irish singer Dana. "Knock Knock, Who's There?" was released as a single on 23 March 1970, reaching #2 again in the UK. Her second, folky album, Earth Song, Ocean Song, was released by Apple on October 1, 1971. The record was produced by her husband Tony Visconti and included cover versions of songs written by Cat Stevens, Gallagher and Lyle, and Ralph McTell.

After the hit singles

After marrying Visconti in 1971, Hopkin withdrew from the pop music scene to have a family. Although reportedly unhappy with show business, Hopkin did not stop recording. She travelled to Australia with Visconti in January 1972 and performed at a large outdoor rock festival in South Australia, as well as giving concerts in several major cities. With the help of Visconti, 1972 saw the release of the Christmas song "Mary Had Baby"/"Cherry Tree Carol" on Regal Zonophone Records, which was re-released in 1973. Later that year, the single "Summertime Summertime"/"Sweet And Low" was released on Bell Records under the name of Hobby Horse.

Although no other singles or albums came out in her name until 1976, she sang on numerous recordings that her husband Visconti produced, such as those featuring Tom Paxton, Ralph McTell, David Bowie (Low), Bert Jansch, The Radiators From Space, Thin Lizzy, Carmen, Sarstedt Brothers, Osibisa, Sparks, Hazel O'Connor and Elaine Paige.

On all of these recordings (and also on her husband's own album Inventory) she is credited as Mary Visconti. During this time, she also appeared on various TV shows such as Cilla Black's and various radio programmes.

Return to recording

In 1976, she returned to recording under her own name and released the single "If You Love Me" (originally recorded by Edith Piaf). The B-side, "Tell Me Now", was an original composition by Hopkin.

Her next single was "Wrap Me In Your Arms", with the B-side again written by Hopkin ("Just A Dreamer"). These singles came out on Visconti's Good Earth Records label. Several songs recorded for an album at the time have now been released under Hopkin's own label, Mary Hopkin Music.

Two members of Steeleye Span (Bob Johnson and Pete Knight) chose Hopkin to play "Princess Lirazel" on their concept album The King of Elfland's Daughter. She also appeared at the prestigious Cambridge Folk Festival with Bert Jansch. 1976 also saw the birth of her second child. Before the 1970s ended, Decca released a compilation LP of Hopkin's Cambrian recordings, The Welsh World of Mary Hopkin.

The 1980s

Hopkin's first project in the 1980s was a well-reviewed stint playing the Virgin Mary in Rock Nativity at the Hexagon Theatre in Reading, Berkshire. After this, Mike Hurst (record producer and formerly of The Springfields) asked her to sing lead in a new group named Sundance that he had formed with Mike de Albuquerque of ELO. Their only single, What's Love, allowed them to tour the UK with Dr. Hook, but Hopkin quickly left the group, dissatisfied with the gigs. In 2002, Hurst released recordings from this time on the Angel Air label.

In 1981, Hopkin and Visconti divorced. The following year, she provided melismatic vocals on "Rachael's Song" for the Vangelis soundtrack of Blade Runner. Around 1984, Peter Skellern asked her to join him and Julian Lloyd Webber in a band called Oasis. The record Oasis was released on WEA along with two singles. A tour of the UK was planned but was brought to an abrupt end because Hopkin became ill. The group disbanded shortly afterwards.

During the 1980s, Hopkin appeared in several charity shows, including an appearance at the London Palladium with Ralph McTell. In 1988, she took part in George Martin's production of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood. She played the character Rosie Probert and notably performed a piece called "Love Duet" with Freddie Jones as Captain Cat. The making of the record was filmed and made into a 'South Bank Show Special', where Hopkin and Jones were shown rehearsing and recording Love Duet. In 1992, the cast reunited for a performance of the play as a tribute to Dylan Thomas in the presence of Prince Charles for the Prince's Trust.

In 1989, Hopkin recorded a CD of songs called Spirit. This was recorded on the Trax label and is a collection of light classical songs, featuring the single "Ave Maria". The record was produced by Benny Gallagher of Gallagher and Lyle, who had contributed songs to her during her days at Apple Records.

1990s and beyond

Early in 1990, she was asked to sing with The Chieftains at the London Palladium in a charity show, and later joined them on a tour of the UK.

She continued to do projects of her choosing, working with people like Julian Colbeck, she wrote the lyrics and performed a song on his CD Back to Bach. Also, there was Marc Cerrone's The Collector, a stage play/opera, for which she performed two tracks on the CD and video. She worked again with her old guitarist Brian Willoughby and Dave Cousins (of Strawbs) on their CD The Bridge. Hopkin also appears on a Beatles tribute album by RAM Pietsch.

Around 1996, the Welsh label Sain bought Cambrian's back catalogue and released all Hopkin's Welsh recordings on a CD called The Early Years, which removed the overdubbed drums found in the Decca recordings.

In 1999, she was again invited to join The Chieftains on their UK tour, and later that year performed a few concerts in Scotland with Benny Gallagher and Jim Diamond. More recently there have been three TV documentaries about her, one each for HTV, BBC, S4C.

She has guested on The Crocketts' album The Great Brain Robbery, sang the theme song for Billy Connolly's BBC TV series The World Tour, and recorded "Those Were The Days" with Robin Williams rapping. She also appeared in the Sarah Sugarman filmVery Annie Mary and duetted with Dolly Parton on her 2005 CD, Those Were The Days, which went to #48 on the US charts (#9 Country) and number 35 in the UK (#2 UK Country).

In September 2005 she released an album on her own label, Mary Hopkin Music, called Live at the Royal Festival Hall. It was followed in December 2006 by a brand-new Christmas recording, Snowed Under, released as an mp3 download on the Welsh online store Disaudio (

To celebrate her 57th birthday, she released an album called Valentine, on her new eponymous label. It includes 12 previously unheard tracks dating from 1972 to 1980, three of which were written by Hopkin.



Year Title Chart positions
UK GER SUI US (Billboard) US (Cash Box)
1968 Those Were The Days 1 1 1 2 1
1969 Goodbye 2 15 3 13 17
1970 Temma Harbour 6 39 43
Knock Knock, Who's There? 2 12 92 (in 1973) 86 (in 1972)
Think About Your Children 19 87
1971 Let My Name Be Sorrow 46
1976 If You Love Me 32


Releases on Apple Records

  • (S) APCOR5 Post Card LP (Stereo / Mono Issues. Stereo reissue in 1991 with bonus 12")
  • SAPCOR21 Earth Song-Ocean Song LP
  • SAPCOR23 Those Were The Days LP

See also


  • Guinness Book of British Hit Singles - 16th Edition - ISBN 0-85112-190-X
  • The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits - ISBN 0-85112-250-7
  • Guinness Book of British Hit Albums - 7th Edition - ISBN 0-85112-619-7

External links

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