Bonnie Tyler has been in the music industry for around 50 years. That is an incredible accomplishment! In all of those years though, she is likely best known for her chart-topping 1983 power ballad “Total Eclipse of the Heart” written by Jim Steinman. At it’s height of popularity, the single sold approximately 60,000 copies a day! Bonnie Tyler tells almost every interviewer that even though she has performed the song thousands of times over the years, she still loves it. She also still performs it at every concert she gives. I often hear the song on the radio and never get tired of it, as do countless other people all over the world.
It’s a pretty trippy song, though, right? I mean, what is it even about? Honestly, for many people, that open-to-interpretation confusion is just a part of the song’s appeal. Ask 10 fans what they think of the song, and you are likely to receive 10 different responses. It’s a love song, sure, but what’s the story there? The seriously insane music video doesn’t offer fans any clue, but adds even more to the classic melodramatic nature of the 80s. If you have never seen it, take a minute to watch it here.
Regardless of its actual storyline, it is one of the most popular songs from the 80s. Most people know a line or two from it, or can at least sing along with the “turn around bright eyes” background vocal. But would it help answer a few questions about its meaning to know that Jim Steinman had originally started writing this song for another project?
As studied and iconic as “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is to rock music, the 1922 German silent film Nosferatu is to the film industry. The producers of Nosferatu knew that they couldn’t afford to acquire the rights of the “Dracula” story from Bram Stoker’s estate, so the big dummies thought that changing a few odds and ends would be enough to keep them safe from copyright infringement. They were sadly mistaken, and Bram Stoker’s widow sued the fool out of the studio. Part of the lawsuit included that all copies of the film had to be destroyed, but some copies had already made their way out of Germany, and at least one into the United States.
One of the key alterations they made to the “Dracula” storyline is one that continues to be popular in vampire lore even today: vampires cannot live in the sunlight. Indeed, Nosferatu was the first vampire tale to include that element of vulnerability. The film itself is arguably the best adaptation of the classic Bram Stoker novel, but Nosferatu is also widely studied in film schools across the globe, and is most regarded for the visual qualities of the film. Director F.W. Murnau was truly ahead of his time making this cult-classic. He made the most of his limited budget by filming on-location. The special effects and technical components he used such as playing around with frame rates and stop-motion, using negative prints to create a dramatic background, and pioneering the intercutting of events that occur at the same time, are just some of the things I could geek-out over for hours. Acclaimed film critic, Roger Ebert, put it best when he explained that it’s not so much that the film is scary (though back in the 20s, those movie-goers may beg to differ), but everything the filmmakers put into it makes haunting a better description. Just do yourself a favor and swallow your eye-rolling pride about watching a silent film, and go watch it. I’m pretty sure it’s free with Amazon Prime.
Jim Steinman had been working on a musical version of Nosferatu when he wrote the song, “Vampires in Love.” He eventually completed the song after meeting Bonnie Tyler, and it became the epic “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Does knowing that “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is really more about vampire love change anything about the way you hear it or see that tripped-out music video? Maybe, maybe not. It is still very open to interpretation, and again, that is still part of what makes the song so appealing.
Like the song for a musical turning into a ballad for the ages, have you ever had something in your life begin as one thing, then end up becoming something else? I have. I went to school to be a music teacher, but I have never taught music professionally. Being a special ed teacher was never even on my radar, but it has turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of my life. The Bible says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9). I feel like I would have been a good music teacher, and I could still be someday if that opportunity presents itself, but God knew that being a special ed teacher was where I really needed to be right out of college, and right now in the present. Had I not studied music ed, I may not have met all the people instrumental in leading me along the path God had planned out for me. He knows what He’s doing. He’s just cool like that. Maybe His path for me will lead to a music classroom someday in the future, but whether it does or does not, I know that God has my best interests, so I’m good with whatever.
On the flip-side, have you ever had something bad turn into something good? The story of Joseph can be found in the Bible in Genesis chapters 37-50. Joseph’s brothers couldn’t stand him. They sold him into slavery, and lied to their dad saying that Joseph had been killed by an animal. Joseph went through many years of awful stuff, but he ended up being in the right places at the right times to eventually save the country of Egypt and all the surrounding lands from a terrible, seven-year famine. In forgiving his brothers, Joseph told them that what they had intended for evil, God used for good (Genesis 50:20a).
What’s going on in your life right now? For better or worse, sometimes our plans don’t work out how we think they should. Whether it’s something bad turning good (the story of Joseph), or something good turning better (the “Total Eclipse of the Heart” song, and my teaching career), we can trust that God has great plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), and that the end result will be better than we could have ever imagined! Ask the Lord to show you the good or better in your situations. He’ll let you know where to go (Proverbs 3:6).