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The Long, Strange History Behind Bonnie Tyler’s Epic ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’

When people over a certain age are confronted with the latest viral pop or hip-hop sensation, their tsk-tsk is often accompanied by a familiar lament: “They just don’t make music like they used to.” Chances are, they’re harkening back to the rock or soul music of the ‘60s and ‘70s they grew up on — the Rolling Stones, say, Motown, the Eagles: unimpeachable, timeless. But listen closely, and you can find clear traces of those hallowed icons in today’s hits. Want to hear music that they TRULY don’t make anymore? Head to your local karaoke bar, steel your nerves, and fire up Bonnie Tyler’s preposterously epic 1983 power ballad, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”


The song, a No. 1 hit that ran a heartstopping six minutes and 58 seconds in its full, scenery-chewing splendor, was the brainchild of the late Jim Steinman, a composer and songwriter best known for the high-throttle teen symphonies he created for the beefy rock singer Meat Loaf.


Steiman’s roots, and “Total Eclipse’s,” lay in musical theater: As a senior at Massachusetts’ Amherst College in the late 1960s, he wrote an experimental musical called “The Dream Engine,” which, in addition to featuring loads of nudity, included the lyric “turn around bright eyes,” a reference to the flash from a nuclear explosion (you had to be there) that became the famous refrain in “Total Eclipse.”