A talented singer, a sassy diva Flickr- Florian Stangl

What a pleasure it was to meet Bonnie Tyler, an internationally acclaimed singer whose career has, so far, spanned four decades. She is easy to talk to, with no airs and graces, and speaks engagingly about her rise to fame and the many stories and achievements that have accompanied her journey.

Performers like Tyler are undoubtedly special, and it is inspiring to hear about how she went from growing up with a large family in a council house in South Wales to breaking a world record as the first British female to debut at number 1 for her album Faster Than the Speed of Night. She talks of finding inspiration in her mother, a shy woman who would sing opera around the house. Growing up listening to Janis Joplin and Tina Turner, Tyler first started singing before she left school, coming second at an audition in the local rugby club and winning a prize of £1.

Though she says in a matter-of-fact way, “I’ve come second very often in my career”, even with a profession full of highs and lows, Bonnie Tyler says that she was driven not by a desire to be famous, but by a dream to front a band, and to sing. In a society that is seemingly obsessed with fame and a culture in which people will do anything to get noticed, it is refreshing to hear her attitude to fame and success, and when asked about refusing judging roles on talent shows, she simply says she couldn’t do it because “I’d have to tell it like it is”.

Her concise and targeted responses characterised both our discussion and her Q&A in the Union chamber where she humorously told the interviewer: “I’m only glad you’re asking me questions about my career tonight ‘cos I know sod all else”, before admitting that she does in fact hold two honorary degrees.

Her career provides sufficiently fruitful conversation. She describes her first big break with 'Lost in France' in 1976 as a result of becoming “famous by accident” when a talent scout accidentally went to the wrong room to hear her sing instead of “the guy upstairs”. 'Lost in France' was followed by 'It’s a Heartache' in 1977, which broke the Country and R&B charts in the US. I was really interested to ask her about the two albums she subsequently made with Jim Steinman, who was the producer and songwriter for Meat Loaf’s 'Bat Out of Hell'. She describes the time as simply “amazing”. After hearing 'Bat Out of Hell', Bonnie asked her record company to get in contact with Steinman and, although they were reluctant, she insisted: “You don’t know until you ask!” Steinman, whom Tyler describes as “very slow” but “very precise”, admired her voice and wrote 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' specifically to show off her talent. She describes hearing the song for the first time humbly, admitting: “I couldn’t believe it was for me”.

Of course, for all her successes Tyler reminds us of some of the more difficult moments of her career, such as having things thrown at her on stage during a performance at Reading and Leeds. She also tells of the emergency throat operation she underwent in the mid-1970s, which left her unable to sing for six months. She explains that many assumed this would be the end of her career, but that it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, leaving her with a distinctively husky sound.

More recently, Tyler has been in the public eye for her Eurovision performance, which she initially turned down in 1983 due to being number 1 in both the UK and the US at the time. She says that in 2013 it was more fun than she had expected, but asserts that she knew she wouldn’t win because “it’s too political”.

What is clear from talking to her is that nothing seems to stop or dishearten Bonnie Tyler. She is still making music and says that this year “my diary is crazy”. I had planned to ask her if she thought there would come a time when she’d stop singing and performing, but over the course of our conversation it became increasingly clear that this doesn’t concern her; she keeps going because music is “a love of mine”, and her passion truly seems to be a rare gift.

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