Bonnie Tyler’s Signature Voice and the Painful Technique She Used To Get It

Some singers rely on years of training and rehearsals to perfect their tone, but Bonnie Tyler’s signature voice came from a post-surgery strawberries and cream snafu. From “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to “Holding Out for a Hero,” Tyler’s distinct, husky vocal color has made her hits so uniquely her own.

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But the voice we’ve come to know and love today didn’t come around until the late 1970s, and if the Welsh singer hadn’t ignored her doctor’s orders, it might not have come around at all.

A Recurring Problem That Just Got Worse

Bonnie Tyler, born Gaynor Hopkins, began her singing career at 18 years old after earning second place in a local talent competition. While she started as a backup singer, it didn’t take long for Tyler to form her own band and start gigging around the U.K. By the mid-1970s, Tyler was performing regularly, and her voice was beginning to feel the effects of the constant stress.

“I started to get a sore throat because all the singing was taking its toll,” Tyler explained to The Mirror. “A doctor discovered that I had nodules on my vocal cords. The only option was for them to be surgically removed.” Tyler said that after her procedure, her surgeons advised her not to talk or sing for six weeks.

“I already had them three times in my career,” Tyler later said in a YouTube interview with Tom Cridland. “But they went away with rest before.” As her career amped up and her performing work became more regular, these benign growths on her vocal cords eventually got so bad they required medical intervention.

How Bonnie Tyler Developed Her Signature Voice

Vocal nodules (and surgery to fix them) can dramatically alter one’s voice. These injuries and the treatments for them can affect a singer’s range, agility, and overall timbre. A singer ignoring their doctor’s orders can make these changes all the more likely, which is precisely what Bonnie Tyler did after having her nodule removal surgery.

As she explained to Cridland, she was always talkative and struggled to abide by strict vocal rest. She continued to talk throughout her six-week recovery period after her surgery, and that alone would have been enough to permanently affect her vocal tone. But after a particularly frustrating day, Tyler did something that would change her sound (and, in turn, the sound of some of the greatest pop hits of the late 1970s and 1980s) forever.

Tyler was driving to the hospital to visit her brother, who had recently injured his knee. Halfway there, she realized she and her mother had forgotten a batch of strawberries and cream they had made for him. Angry that she would have to turn around and drive all the way back home to double back to the hospital, Tyler did what most of us would do if we were in a stressful back and forth in the car: she let out a long, frustrated scream.

“I went back to the surgeon, and he said, ‘Well, you’ve really gone and done it now,’” Tyler told Cridland. “I would have been able to sing in six weeks or something, but it took me six months.” Still, those six months were not for naught. “When I went into the studio, they had written “It’s a Heartache,”” Tyler continued. “They said, ‘Wow, your voice has changed! But we like it!”

Photo by David Redfern/Redferns

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Toby Keith performs onstage during the 2021 iHeartCountry Festival Presented By Capital One at The Frank Erwin Center on October 30, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Editorial Use Only.

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