Since the Eurovision Song Contest began over
fifty years ago, some of Europe's biggest music stars have taken
part in the competition. Some have used the contest as a platform to
launch their international career, some have been at the height of
their popularity when they competed, while others tried to came a
comeback through participating in the event. Over the next month, we will
profile the thirty biggest acts, based on international sales, that
have competed in the contest over the last half century.
There's probably no other singer in
Eurovision history that can claim to have had a song written
especially for them by a member of The Beatles, but that's one
of the highlights in the brief but spectacular career of the
Welsh songbird Mary Hopkin.
Mary was born in Pontardawe, Wales to a
Welsh English-speaking family and began her musical career as
a folk singer. She released an EP of Welsh language songs for
a local record label before being "discovered" on
the British television talent show "Opportunity
Knocks" in 1968. Having seen Mary on the show, model
Twiggy recommended her to friend Paul McCartney and soon Mary
Hopkin became one of the first artists to be signed up by the
Beatles Apple record label.
Mary's first single was one of the first
released on Apple Records and was produced by Paul McCartney
taking a break from recording with the Beatles. "Those
Were The Days" shot to the top of the UK singles chart
and it held the #1 position for six weeks. Interestingly
former Eurovision winner Sandie Shaw released a rival version
of the song, but it sank without trace in the battle for chart
honours. Mary recorded "Those Were The Days" in
several different languages and it became a Worldwide hit,
reaching #2 in the US chart
Later in 1968 Hopkin appeared at St Pauls
Cathedral, London for the "Pop Experience" show
including a memorable version of THe Byrds "Turn, Turn,
Turn". On February 21st 1969 her debut album,
"Postcard", which was also produced by McCartney,
was released. It included covers of three songs from British
folk singer Donovan, who also played on the album, and one
song each from George Martin and Harry Nilsson. The album also
included songs in French and Welsh, covers of the
classics "Love Is The Sweetest Thing" and
"Young Love" and also "The Puppy Song",
which would later be a hit for David Cassidy. The album
reached number three on the UK Albums Chart, although it
proved to be her commercially successful album.
MARY HOPKIN -
"Those Were The Days"
The Beatles trend of the time, Mary Hopkin's next single was
not on her album. " Goodbye", written by Paul
McCartney (but credited to Lennon-McCartney) was released in
March 1969 and it reached #2 in the UK singles chart. It was
kept off the top of the charts by the Beatles' single
"Get Back". Mary also competed at the 1969 San
Remo Song Contest in Italy, finishing second with the haunting
ballad "Lontano D'agli Occhi" (Far From The Eyes), a
song which gave her a hit in the Italian charts. Caught up in
the acrimonious break-up of The Beatles little was heard of
Mary for the rest of 1969. However a third single followed in
early 1970. The haunting "Temma Harbour" reached #6
in the UK singles chart, but made far less impact
internationally, than her previous singles.
In early 1970, the BBC announced that Mary Hopkin
would represent the U.K. at the Eurovision Song Contest in
Amsterdam. The song selection was staged at the BBC TV Studios in
London on March 7th and was hosted by Cliff Richard who had
represented the UK in 1968. Mary performed six songs and the winner
was chosen by postcard voting. The catchy "Knock Knock Who's
There" was the clar favourite of the public. Interestingly
Mitch Murray's "Turn On The Sun" didn't make the last six,
but a French publisher asked Nana Mouskouri to record it, and it has
turned into a standard in French music lessons.
In the build-up to the 1970 Eurovision Song
Contest, two countries were seen as being the favourites, the U.K.,
which had won in 1967, finished second in 1968 and shared victory in
1969 and the Spanish entry sung by Julio Iglesias. Spain was going
for its third successive win in the competition. However despite a
fine performance by Mary Hopkin, "Knock Knock Who's There"
lost out to the Irish entry "All Kinds Of Everything" sung
by Dana. Despite its failure to win at Eurovision, the Marry Hopkin
scored another big European hit, reaching #2 in the U.K. chart.
MARY HOPKIN -
"Knock Knock Who's There"
Following Eurovision, Mary Hopking returned
to her folk roots. A single "Think About The
Children" reached #19 in the U.K. in October 1970.
Her second, more folky album, "Earth Song, Ocean
Song", was released by Apple on October 1st 1971. The
record was produced by her then-husband Tony Visconti and
included covers of songs written by Cat Stevens, Gallagher and
Lyle, and Ralph McTell, but it failed commercially.
Mary Hopkin withdrew from the pop music
scene to have a family and although reportedly unhappy with
show business, she did not stop recording, releasing a number
of singles and albums produced by Visconti, who was best known
at the time for his production work with David Bowie. During
this time, Mary also appeared on various radio and television
shows such as Cilla Black's popular music show.
Mary Hopkin's last commercial success came
in 1976 with a cover version of an old Edith Piaf song.
"If You Love Me" reached #32 in the British singles
chart. During the last thirty years Mary Hopkin has continued
her music career, releasing several albums on independent
labels and appearing on stage with many of the of the biggest
names in folk music, including The Chieftains. Earlier this
year she released an album called "Valentine", which
includes twelve previously unheard tracks dating from 1972 to
1980, three of which were written by Hopkin.