About The Song

Background

“Those Were the Days” wasn’t originally intended for Mary Hopkin. The song, written by Russian-born songwriter Gene Raskin, was first offered to The Byrds. They declined, and the song found its way to another up-and-coming artist, Paul McCartney. McCartney, already a superstar with The Beatles, saw potential in the nostalgic melody and decided to produce it for a new talent he’d discovered – Mary Hopkin.

Hopkin, a young Welsh folk singer with a pure and clear voice, was relatively unknown at the time. McCartney, impressed by her vocal abilities, believed she’d be the perfect fit for the song’s melancholic charm. He arranged and produced the recording, even playing guitar on the track.

Released in 1968, “Those Were the Days” became an instant sensation. It topped the charts in the UK, knocking The Beatles’ own “Hey Jude” off the number one spot. It also achieved significant success in the US, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s unexpected rise to fame launched Hopkin’s career and cemented her place as a prominent figure in the British pop scene.

Musical Style

“Those Were the Days” is a folk-pop song with a strong influence of vaudeville and music hall. The instrumentation is simple yet effective, featuring a delicately strummed acoustic guitar, a light and playful piano melody, and a tasteful string arrangement that adds a touch of grandeur. Hopkin’s clear vocals take center stage, delivering the nostalgic lyrics with a charming innocence.

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The song’s tempo is moderate, creating a sense of bittersweet reflection. The structure is straightforward, with a catchy chorus that lingers in the listener’s mind. McCartney’s production is polished but tasteful, allowing the song’s inherent charm to shine through.

Lyrics

The lyrics of “Those Were the Days” are the cornerstone of the song’s success. They evoke a sense of nostalgia for a simpler time, a childhood filled with carefree days and youthful dreams. The singer reminisces about penny candy, paper dolls, and skipping rope, contrasting them with the more complex realities of adulthood.

The lines “When we were young and our hearts were young” establish the central theme of the song – the bittersweet passage of time and the loss of innocence. The chorus, with its repeated refrain of “Those were the days,” serves as a poignant reminder of the fleeting nature of youth.

However, the lyrics are not simply sentimental. There’s a touch of humor present in lines like “wearing our pants too high” and “never questioning why.” This playful wink prevents the song from becoming overly saccharine and adds a layer of relatability.

Cultural Impact

“Those Were the Days” became a cultural phenomenon in 1968. Its success transcended generations, resonating with listeners of all ages who could relate to the themes of nostalgia and the passage of time. The song’s association with Mary Hopkin, a young and fresh talent, further solidified its place in popular culture.

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The song’s influence can be seen in countless covers by artists across various genres. From Dolly Parton to Joan Baez, “Those Were the Days” has been reinterpreted and reimagined, a testament to its enduring appeal. The song has also been featured in numerous films and television shows, solidifying its position as a timeless classic.

“Those Were the Days” also played a role in shaping the British pop landscape. Hopkin’s success, propelled by the song, opened doors for other female artists and contributed to the diversification of the British music scene in the late 1960s.

Conclusion

“Those Were the Days” by Mary Hopkin is more than just a catchy pop song. It’s a timeless ballad that captures the universal feeling of nostalgia and the bittersweet passage of time. The song’s simple yet effective melody, Hopkin’s charming vocals, and the relatable lyrics have ensured its enduring legacy. From its unexpected rise to fame to its lasting cultural impact, “Those Were the Days” remains a significant chapter in the history of popular music.

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Lyrics

🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics! 

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
Think of all the great things we would do

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

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Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I’d see you in the tavern
We’d smile at one another and we’d say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days
Oh, yes, those were the days

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days
Oh, yes, those were the days

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we’re older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days

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