Total Eclipse of the Algarve

By Vaughan Willmore

An exclusive interview with Bonnie Tyler. Vaughan Willmore speaks to the fabulous Bonnie Tyler about her amazing career and life in the Algarve.

When Bonnie Tyler kindly agreed to an exclusive interview with Tomorrow magazine I asked her management team if they wanted questions in advance. The response was swift and clear: “Thank you, but that won’t be necessary. Bonnie will be quite happy just to have a chat”. As I was soon to discover, it was an approach that is so indicative of Bonnie, someone who has achieved superstardom and yet has remained down to earth, funny and engaging.

‘Lost in France’, ‘It’s a Heartache’, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, ‘Holding Out for a Hero’, together with her latest album The Best is Yet To Come, are just some of the memorable singles and albums underpinning an amazing 50-year career which shows no signs of abating. Indeed, health regulations permitting, Bonnie is readying herself and her band for a thirty date, ten-nation tour, more details of which are available on her website at

Bonnie first visited the Algarve in the mid-seventies and immediately fell in love, describing it as “a magical place where you could sail out to sea at midnight and enjoy a barbecue and return to shore in the early hours of the morning to find the local bars still open”. Not long after, Bonnie and her husband Robert Sullivan – “a former Olympian Judo athlete and shrewd businessman” – purchased a property near Albufeira. They still have the property today, albeit it has undergone major renovations since, transforming it into a modern state of the art property.

In addition to her villa in the Algarve, Bonnie and Robert own several rental properties in England, Wales and Portugal, numerous horse-riding stables, a mineral quarry in Wales, and even a dairy farm in New Zealand. As much as she loves Portugal and its people, she still regards Wales as home and with such an extensive and close family of siblings, nieces and nephews, it’s not difficult to understand why.

Nevertheless, Bonnie has spent the last 18 months here in Portugal and recognises how difficult it has been for so many people and businesses. She has used the time well, recharging her batteries, enjoying walks on the beach with Robert, and learning to swim. Hardworking lady that she is, she also continued her weekly voice coach sessions.

During the course of our hour-long interview, Bonnie referred several times to how fortunate she had been to have enjoyed such an illustrious career. Here I humbly disagree, suspecting Bonnie’s success is more to do with her work ethic, unique voice, tenaciousness and talent. Outstanding singles such as ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ and ‘It’s a Heartache’ have estimated sales of over 6 million units each, making them among the best-selling singles of all time. In 2019, she performed at the Vatican in front of Pope Francis, “a surreal experience and special for Robert too, a Catholic since birth”, and has performed with close friend Cliff Richard in front of 50,000 fans in Albufeira – “an amazing experience”. She has topped the charts worldwide from the UK to Brazil and virtually everywhere in between.

Bonnie’s 1976 breakthrough single ‘Lost in France’ led to her nomination for Best British Female Newcomer at the 1977 Brit Awards. In the 1980s, she received nominations for two more Brit Awards and three Grammy Awards. In 2013, she was presented with the Gold Badge Award by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. She was the first Welsh singer to top the charts in the USA and one of the first western artists to tour the Soviet Union.

In addition to music awards, Bonnie has received numerous honours in Wales, including being named freeman of Neath Port Talbot in 2011 and gaining an honorary doctorate from Swansea University in 2013. She is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. In 2016, she was honoured by the Lord Mayor of Swansea for Services to Music.

Her tenacity is exemplified in a story she recounts from the early 80s, when she asked her management team to see if Meatloaf’s producer Jim Steinman would produce her next album. The request was met with some scepticism from her team, who doubted that the legendary Steinman would agree to such a request. Undeterred, Bonnie insisted they make contact with Steinman, who, much to Bonnie’s delight, readily agreed to work together. Steinman would go on to write and produce Bonnie’s biggest hit, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, the lead single from her 1983 UK chart-topping album Faster than the Speed of Night. Steinman also wrote Bonnie’s other major 1980s hit, ‘Holding Out for a Hero’.

I asked Bonnie if any one song has special meaning for her, to which she replied, “They all mean something to me and feel special in their own way. I still enjoy singing the older material and the new. “Total Eclipse of the Heart’ will always have a special meaning to me. I’ve actually just recently re-recorded it for a collaborative album due ou tin September 2021, featuring Gary Barlow, Ronan Keating and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.”

As for her latest album, released in February, it really is terrific and feels very timely. Whilst recorded pre-pandemic, many of the songs have a resonance for life today. The prophetic lyrics of the opening track “The best days are yet to come; the bad days are on the run”, are indicative of the uplifting nature of the album. Bonnie said, “I hope these new songs will lift people’s spirits. I am so happy and proud of it. It brings a smile to my face every time I put it on. The moment we can get back on stage and see people’s smiling faces will be extra special. And I promise: the best is yet to come!”

I asked Bonnie what advice she has for anyone seeking to follow a similar career? “Believe in yourself and work hard to make things happen!”. She credits her dearly departed mother with being of a great influence, always encouraging Bonnie (and her siblings) to pursue her dreams and believe in herself.

Bonnie’s 2021/22 tour takes in 10 European countries, including Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland and Hungary. While there are no dates currently set for Portugal and the UK, Bonnie hopes that “something can be arranged very soon”.

Bonnie’s website contains the latest news regarding her tour and her latest album. There’s also information on the numerous charities Bonnie supports, including her patronage of the Guia-based AAG (Animal Charity Foundation), which helps injured, hungry and distressed street animals through feeding programmes and veterinary care.

Since interviewing Bonnie, many friends and family have asked, “What was Bonnie Tyler like?” My answer has remained the same throughout. Bonnie was funny, interesting, humble, and gracious with her time. While Bonnie described ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ as having special meaning for her, having the chance to speak with Bonnie will always have special meaning to me.


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