Discovered on a British TV show by Twiggy, Mary Hopkin was promptly signed to Apple Records by Paul McCartney himself. The blue-eyed 18-year-old blonde from Wales was one of the first artists to sign with the label. Her fetching schoolgirl charm shone through ”Those Were the Days,” a winsome bit of squeeze-box melancholia that became a huge international hit in 1968 and landed her on the cover of Life a mere eight months into her professional singing career.
Following up that success proved difficult, though, and Hopkin started to chafe under her sugary-sweet image. ”Apple seemed rather embarrassed about the image,” she says, ”but they did everything in their power to exaggerate it. There was a lot more to me, I felt, but they didn’t choose to promote that side.”
She scored lesser hits with ”Goodbye” and ”Temma Harbour” but soon had such lightweight standards as ”Que Sera, Sera” foisted on her. ”I was pushed into doing cabaret, doing dreadful songs that nobody cares about,” she says. ”They [business people] don’t understand that you’re trying to express yourself. They don’t give a damn.”
The singer became disillusioned and quit the business altogether in 1970. Now 35, Hopkin lives in Henley-on-Thames, just west of London, with her two children (a boy, 12, and a girl, 9) by her ex-husband, record producer Tony Visconti. Though she has toured occasionally, she has vowed to avoid forming a regular band, preferring to spend more time with her family. Nevertheless, she is dipping her toe back into the pop waters and last year collaborated on songs with former Dr. Hook singer Dennis Locorriere, who was also her boyfriend at the time. ”We gave up. It just got to be too much,” she says of the romance.”
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She hopes to get a one-shot recording deal but notes ruefully that the dreaded marketing people are still at work. ”Last year, after I did some recording, there was this bunch of people in their midthirties, saying, ‘We want you to wear this and have this hairstyle,”’ She laughs. “Now I do it my way, and I don’t feel any loss.”