Friday, September 25, 2009

Beatle People: Helen Shapiro

Helen Shapiro (born 28 September 1946, Bethnal Green, London) is an English singer and actress. She is best known for her 1960s UK chart-toppers, "You Don't Know" and "Walkin' Back to Happiness."

Early life

Helen Shapiro was born at Bethnal Green Hospital in the East End district of Bethnal Green, London, England, and brought up in Clapton in the London borough of Hackney, where she attended the Clapton Park Comprehensive School. She is the granddaughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. Her parents were too poor to own a record player but they encouraged music in their home (Helen had to borrow a neighbour's player to hear her first single). Shapiro played banjo as a child and sang with her brother Ron occasionally in his youth club jazz group. She had a deep timbre to her voice, unusual in a girl not yet in her teens: school friends gave her the nickname "Foghorn."


In 1961, at the age of fourteen, she had two number one hits in the UK: "You Don't Know" and "Walkin' Back to Happiness"; and, indeed, her first four single releases all went into the top three of the UK Singles Chart. Her mature voice made her an overnight sensation, as well as the youngest female chart topper in the UK. At a mere 14 years and 316 days old when "You Don't Know" hit the top, she was nevertheless a year older than Frankie Lymon had been when "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" hit the UK number one slot in 1956.

Before she was sixteen years old, Shapiro had been voted Britain's 'Top Female Singer', and when The Beatles had their first national tour (The Helen Shapiro Tour) in 1963, it was as her supporting act. The Beatles even wrote the song "Misery" for her but, inexplicably, EMI decided not to record her singing it.

By the time she was in her late teens, however, her career as a pop singer was on the wane. Undaunted, she branched out as a performer in stage musicals, a jazz singer, (jazz being her first love musically), and more recently a gospel singer. She played the role of Nancy in Lionel Bart's musical, Oliver! in London's West End and has appeared in British television soap operas; in particular Albion Market where she played one of the main characters up to the time it was taken off-air in August 1986.

In August 1987 Shapiro became a committed Christian (Messianic believer). She has issued four Messianic albums since then, as well as appearing in a number of special Gospel Outreach evenings, singing and telling of how she found Jesus (Yeshua) as her Messiah.

Shapiro retired from show business at the end of 2002 to concentrate on her Gospel Outreach evenings. She is married to John Judd, an actor with numerous roles in British television and cinema.

Her autobiography, published in 1993, was entitled Walking Back to Happiness.

Shapiro is also mentioned in the BBC Television, science fiction comedy series Red Dwarf, because of her beehive hairstyle.


Chart singles

* "Don't Treat Me Like A Child" - 1961 - Number 3 UK
* "Walkin' Back to Happiness" - 1961 - Number 1 UK, Number 100 U.S.
* "You Don't Know" - 1961 - Number 1 UK
* "Tell Me What He Said" - 1962 - Number 2 UK
* "Let's Talk About Love" - 1962 - Number 23 UK
* "Little Miss Lonely" - 1962 - Number 8 UK
* "Keep Away From Other Girls" - 1962 - Number 40 UK
* "Queen For Tonight" - 1963 - Number 33 UK
* "Woe Is Me" - 1963 - Number 35 UK
* "Look Who It Is" - 1963 - Number 47 UK
* "No Trespassing" / "Not Responsible" - 1963 - Number 1 Australia
* "Fever" - 1964 - Number 38 UK


* 'Tops' With Me (Columbia) 1962 (SSX 1397/SCX 3428) - Number 2 UK
* Helen's Sixteen (Columbia) 1963 (SSX 1494/SCX 3470)
* Helen In Nashville (Columbia) 1963 (SSX 1567)
* Helen Hit's Out! (Columbia) 1964 (SSX 1661/SCX 3533)
* Hits and a Miss Helen Shapiro (EMI Encore) 1965 (ENC 20912)

All the above albums were released in (stereo) and (mono) apart from Helen In Nashville. These are her main albums from the peak of her popularity in the early 1960s from Abbey Road Studios.

Compilation albums

* The Very Best Of Helen Shapiro (EMI) 1974
* Straighten Up and Fly Right (Oval) 1983
* The Very Best Of Helen Shapiro (EMI) 2007


* Shapiro sang "Look Who It Is" on the UK television programme, Ready Steady Go! to John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison of The Beatles.
* Shapiro appeared in the pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre in 1983, and during her stay in the area, made a number of guest appearances at Bury Hebrew Congregation, Bury.


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