Gaynor Hopkins on June 8, 1951 in Skewen, South Wales, U.K.
Thanks to her powerful and instantly recognizable raspy voice, longtime pop/rock singer Bonnie Tyler has enjoyed an impressive career as a solo artist that has spanned nearly four decades. Her most consistent success may have occurred in Europe, outside the pop music hotbeds of the U.S. and her native U.K., but music fans - particularly those who followed the charts during the late '70s and most of the '80s - tend to know her quite well. Here's a look at the hard-working career of one of rock music's most distinctive female singers.
Tyler grew up in a working-class family whose mother helped spread an abiding love of music to her five children. Just out of her teens, Tyler tried her hand at singing publicly, joining a couple of bands and taking on an initial stage name of Sherene Davis in honor of some favorite family members. By 1975, a male impresario helped land her a deal with RCA Records, urging her to come up with a catchier stage name. However, strangely, a genuine musical career did not begin to take off until vocal cord damage suffered following surgery resulted in a permanent raspiness in Tyler's vocal delivery.
'It's a Heartache' - Initial Country Phase:
Tyler enjoyed some success with her first album, 1977's The World Starts Tonight, but her recording of a song that had already made the rounds a bit, the acoustical ballad "It's a Heartache," would instantly launch her to worldwide fame. A Top 5 pop hit in several countries - including the U.S. and U.K. - the song seemed to establish Tyler as a rootsy, soulful Rod Stewart-styled female counterpart. However, Tyler was not particularly happy with the marketing and content of her first four LPs, objecting to her then-image as a country-inflected pop singer. She hoped to make a significant change in that regard at the dawn of the '80s.
'Total Eclipse of the Heart' - Perfect '80s Bombast:
Tyler indeed took a drastically different path in 1982, signing with Columbia Records and selecting Meat Loaf producer and songwriter Jim Steinman to guide her career in a more arena rock-oriented direction. The move paid immediate dividends as Tyler's fifth album, Faster Than the Speed of Night, appeared in 1983 and rocketed to the top of the charts in the U.K. and into the Top 5 in America. Unforgettable '80s power ballad "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (penned by Steinman) became an instant classic, establishing Tyler as the first Welsh female singer to top the U.S. Billboard pop charts.
Chart Decline & Continuing Career:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tyler was unable to sustain this level of success with future offerings, although "Holding Out for a Hero," from the Footloose soundtrack, made the U.S. Top 40. The song became a fixture of mid-'80s pop culture initially as the theme of short-lived adventure TV series Cover Up, and it remains a Tyler favorite. Follow-up albums in 1986 and 1988 continued in a similar mold, but by then Tyler had receded to a cult favorite - enjoying significant success only in several countries in Europe. Her subsequent efforts during the '90s and '00s - though consistent - have embraced this European fan base, and in the English-speaking world Tyler remains, for better and worse, known for her handful of shining '70s and '80s moments.