Bonnie Tyler (born Gaynor Hopkins on June 8, 1951) is a Welsh singer, most notable for her worldwide hits in the 1970s and 1980s including “It’s a Heartache”, “Holding Out for a Hero” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and also selling over 80 million records worldwide.
Tyler was born in Skewen, Neath, Wales to a family that included three sisters and two brothers. Her father worked in a coal mine and her mother (an opera lover) shared her love for music with her children. She grew up listening to Motown music and female artists like Janis Joplin and Tina Turner.
In 1970, at age 19, she entered a talent contest, singing the Mary Hopkin hit “Those Were the Days”, and finished in second place. She was chosen to sing in a band, Bobby Wayne & The Dixies, with front man Bobby Wayne. 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 Davies’, taking the names from her niece and favorite aunt.
In 1973, she married Robert Sullivan, a real estate agent and Olympic judoka. In 1975, she was discovered by Roger Bell who arranged a recording contract for her with RCA Records. Before signing, she was asked to choose a different stage name, settling on Bonnie Tyler.
In 1976, Tyler was spotted in “The Townsman Club” in Swansea by the songwriting and producing team of Ronnie Scott and Steve Wolfe; who became Tyler’s managers, songwriters and producers.
Following the Top Ten success of her 1976 song “Lost in France”, Tyler released her first album in 1977 entitled The World Starts Tonight. A further single from the album, “More Than a Lover”, made the UK Top 30, and the follow-up single, “Heaven”, reached the Top 30 in Germany.
In 1977, Tyler was diagnosed with nodules on her vocal cords that were so severe that she needed to undergo surgery to remove them. After the surgery, she was ordered not to speak for several weeks to aid the healing process, but she broke her doctor’s orders. This caused her voice to take on a raspy quality. At first she believed that her singing career was ruined; but to her surprise her next single, “It’s a Heartache,” made her an international star. The song reached Number Four in the UK, Number Three in the US, Number Two in Germany, and topped the charts in several countries (including France and Australia). Tyler’s second album, Natural Force, was also retitled It’s a Heartache for the U.S. market and certified Gold there.
Though further global success was elusive during this era, Tyler did have some regional hits: “Here Am I” made the German Top 20 in spring of 1978; “My Guns Are Loaded” peaked at Number Three in France in 1979; and she scored a minor UK Top 40 hit with “Married Men” in summer 1979 (the theme to the film “The World Is Full of Married Men”). Tyler released the albums Diamond Cut in 1979 and Goodbye to the Island in 1981. The track “Sitting on the Edge of the Ocean” was the Grand Prix winner of the 1979 Yamaha World Song Festival held in Tokyo.
Tyler released four albums for RCA Records from 1977 to 1981, but she became increasingly dissatisfied with Scott and Wolfe’s management as they were trying to market her as a pop-country music artist. When her contract with RCA expired, she signed with David Aspden Management and sought help from songwriter Jim Steinman, most familiar to audiences as Meat Loaf’s primary collaborator, to give her music the rock style she wanted. She signed with Columbia Records in 1982.
Her next album, Faster Than the Speed of Night, was released in Spring 1983 and included the power-ballad “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, which was written by Steinman. The song was a worldwide hit, reaching Number One in the UK, France, Australia, and in the United States where it remained at the top for four weeks. Her presence in the U.S. chart was at a time when almost one third of the Billboard Hot 100 was filled by songs from UK based acts - a situation unknown since the 1960s British Invasion and Beatlemania. Faster Than the Speed of Night entered the UK Albums Chart at Number One and also became a Top Five bestseller in the US and Australia. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” also brought Tyler a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. In 1984, she performed the track at the Grammy Awards, and received another Grammy nomination as Best Rock Female Vocalist for “Here She Comes”, a song that was part of the soundtrack for the 1984 restoration of the film “Metropolis”. She also released the singles “A Rockin’ Good Way”, a duet with fellow Welsh artist Shakin’ Stevens, which made Number Five in the UK, and “Holding Out for a Hero”, for the Footloose soundtrack, which made the U.S. Top 40 and later peaked at Number Two in UK in the summer of 1985. “Holding Out for A Hero” (written by Steinman and Dean Pitchford) was also used as the main theme for the 1984 US television series Cover Up, though the version heard on the TV series was not Tyler’s original but performed by a Tyler sound-alike.
The following albums Secret Dreams, Forbidden Fire (1986), and Hide Your Heart (1988), achieved some success in France, Switzerland, Scandinavia, South Africa, Australia and other countries. One of the single releases, “If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man)”, became another Top Ten hit in France in 1986 and was certified Silver. In 1987, Tyler recorded the song “Sem limites pra sonhar/Reaching for the Infinite Heart” with the Brazilian singer Fabio Junior. The same year, she sang the title song for Mike Oldfield’s album Islands. Tyler also sang backing vocals with Cher for the song “Perfection” on Cher’s self-titled 1987 album, and “Emotional Fire” on Cher’s 1989 album Heart of Stone.
Throughout the 1990s, Tyler’s success was limited to continental Europe. In the early 1990s, she switched to the German label, Hansa and found a new producer in Dieter Bohlen of the German band Modern Talking. Her first album for the label was Bitterblue, released in late 1991, which saw her leaving the rock genre of the ‘80s and establishing a more soft pop sound. The album went quadruple-platinum in Norway, platinum in Austria, and gold in Germany, Switzerland and Sweden.
Tyler followed this up with the albums Angel Heart (1992) and Silhouette in Red in 1993. In light of her success in Germany, Tyler won Best International Female Vocalist at the RSH Gold Award, the “Goldene Europa” Award and the ECHO Award in 1994.
After her three albums with producer Dieter Bohlen, Tyler wanted to have a more international sound on her next record. She switched labels to Warner Music in 1995 and recorded Free Spirit, an album on which she worked again with Jim Steinman as well as other prolific producers such as David Foster and Humberto Gatica. However, the album was only a minor success in continental Europe, though the single “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” (previously a hit for Air Supply in 1983) narrowly missed the UK Top 40. Tyler continued to record, releasing the folk influenced All in One Voice in 1999, though this was even less successful. Also in 1999, Tyler was part of an ensemble vocal unit for Rick Wakeman’s Return to the Centre of the Earth CD.
In 2003, Tyler released the album Heart Strings, which consisted of cover versions of popular songs performed with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
Also in 2003, French vocalist Kareen Antonn approached Tyler to duet with her on “Si demain... (Turn Around)”, a French-language version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Released in December 2003, it went to Number One in France, holding that chart position for ten weeks, as well as Belgium and Poland, selling a total of two million copies. The follow-up, “Si tout s’arr鳥 (It’s A Heartache)”, another French language remake with Antonn, also made the French Top 20. Tyler released an album, Simply Believe, in 2004, which contained both songs with Antonn.
In September 2006, Tyler made her first appearance on U.S. television in years, as she sang a duet of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with actress Lucy Lawless on the American show “Celebrity Duets”.
In 2007, a new Greatest Hits collection, From the Heart, was released. Also in 2007, Tyler contributed a track, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”, to the charity record Over the Rainbow. Tyler mentioned in an interview that she is working on a new studio album and would be working with Jim Steinman again.
In 2009, Tyler made a guest appearance in Hollyoaks Later (the late night edition of the British Channel 4 teen soap Hollyoaks) in which she sang her hit “Holding Out For a Hero” with one of the characters. She also recorded a new version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with the Welsh male voice choir Only Men Aloud! for their second album Band of Brothers which was released in October 2009.
In 2010, Tyler appeared in a television advertisement for MasterCard called “Neville”, singing a parody of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.