Helen Shapiro

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Helen Shapiro
Helen Shapiro (1963).jpg
Background information
Birth name Helen Kate Shapiro
Born (1946-09-28) 28 September 1946 (age 70)
Origin Bethnal Green, London, England
Genres Pop, jazz
Occupation(s) Singer, actress
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1961–present

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

Early life[edit]

Shapiro was born at Bethnal Green Hospital in the East End district of Bethnal Green, London.[1] Her early childhood was spent in a Clapton council house in the London borough of Hackney, where she attended Northwold Primary School and Clapton Park Comprehensive School until Christmas 1961.[2] She is the granddaughter of Russian Jewish immigrants; her parents, who were piece-workers in the garment industry, attended Lea Bridge Road Synagogue. The family moved from Clapton to the Victoria Park area of Hackney, on the Parkside Estate, when she was nine. "It was, and remains, a beautiful place," she said in a 2006 interview.[3]

Although too poor to own a record player, Shapiro's parents encouraged music in their home (she had to borrow a neighbour's player to hear her first single). Shapiro played banjolele as a child and sang with her brother Ron occasionally in his youth club skiffle 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".[4]

Aged ten, Shapiro was a singer with "Susie and the Hula Hoops," (with her cousin, 60s singer, Susan Singer) a school band which included Marc Bolan (then using his real name of Mark Feld) as guitarist. At 13 she started singing lessons at The Maurice Burman School of Modern Pop Singing, based in London's Baker Street, after the school produced singing star Alma Cogan. "I had always wanted to be a singer. I had no desire to slavishly follow Alma's style, but chose the school merely because of Alma's success", she said in a 1962 interview.[5] Burman's connections eventually led her to a young Columbia Records A&R man named John Schroeder, who recorded a demo of Shapiro singing "Birth of the Blues".[4]

Early Career[edit]

In 1961, aged fourteen, she had a UK No. 3 hit with her first single, "Don't Treat Me Like a Child"[6] and two number one hits in the UK, "You Don't Know"[7] and "Walkin' Back to Happiness".[8] The latter did not top the UK chart until 19 October 1961, by which time Shapiro had reached 15, on 26 September. She had a No. 2 in 1962 with "Tell Me What He Said",[9] achieving her first four single releases in the top three of the UK Singles Chart. Most of her recording sessions were at EMI's studios at Abbey Road in north west London. Her mature voice made her an overnight sensation, as well as the youngest female chart topper in the UK.[1]

Shapiro's final UK Top Ten hit single was with the ballad "Little Miss Lonely", which peaked at No. 8 for two weeks in 1962.[10] Shapiro's recording manager at the time was Norrie Paramor.

Before she was sixteen years old, Shapiro had been voted Britain's "Top Female Singer". The Beatles first national tour of Britain, in the late winter/early spring of 1963, was as one of her supporting acts. During the course of the tour, the Beatles had their first hit single and John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the song "Misery" for her, but Shapiro did not record the composition.[11] In 1995, during a This is Your Life highlighting her life and career, Shapiro revealed, "It was actually turned down on my behalf before I ever heard it, actually. I never got to hear it or give an opinion. It's a shame, really." Shapiro lip-synched her then-current single, "Look Who It Is", on the British television programme Ready Steady Go! with three of the Beatles (John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison).

In 1962, Shapiro appeared as herself in the Billy Fury film Play It Cool, and played the lead female role in Richard Lester's movie, It's Trad, Dad!, which co-starred another early 60s hitmaker, Craig Douglas. On 31 December 1969, Shapiro appeared on the BBC/ZDF co-production Pop Go The Sixties, singing "Walkin' Back to Happiness".

By the time she was in her late teens, her career as a pop singer was on the wane. With the new wave of beat music and newer female singers such as Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw and Lulu, Shapiro appeared old-fashioned and emblematic of the pre-Beatles, 50s era. As her pop career declined, Shapiro turned to cabaret appearances, touring the workingmen's clubs of the North East of England. Her final cabaret show took place at Peterlee's Senate Club on 6 May 1972, where she announced she was giving up touring as she was "travel-weary" and had had enough of "living out of a suitcase".[12] Later, after a change of mind, she branched out as a performer in stage musicals, and jazz (being her first love musically).

Later career[edit]

She played the role of Nancy in Lionel Bart's musical, Oliver! in London's West End and appeared in a British television soap opera, Albion Market, where she played one of the main characters until it was taken off air in August 1986.

Between 1984 and 2001, she toured extensively with legendary British jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton and his band, whilst still performing her own jazz and pop concerts. Her one-woman show "Simply Shapiro" ran from 1999 to the end of 2002, when she finally bade farewell to show business.

Her autobiography, published in 1993, was entitled Walking Back to Happiness. She appeared as a guest on BBC Radio 4's 'The Reunion' in August 2012. In March 2013 she appeared on BBC Radio 3's 'Good Morning Sunday'

Personal life[edit]

Helen Shapiro has been married since 31 August 1988 to John Judd (real name, John Williams), an actor with numerous roles in British television and cinema.[13]


  • "Don't Treat Me Like a Child"/ "When I'm With You" (Columbia) 1961 (45-DB 4589)
  • "You Don't Know" / "Marvellous Lie" (Columbia) 1961 (45-DB 4670)
  • "Walkin' Back to Happiness" / "Kiss 'N' Run" (Columbia) 1961 (45-DB4715)
  • "Tell Me What He Said" / "I Apologise" (Columbia) 1962 (45-DB 4782)
  • "Let's Talk About Love" / "Sometime Yesterday" (Columbia) 1962 (45-DB 4824)
  • "Little Miss Lonely" / "I Don't Care" (Columbia) 1962 (45-DB 4869)
  • "Keep Away From Other Girls" / "Cry My Heart Out" (Columbia) 1962 (45-DB 4908)
  • "Queen For Tonight" / "Daddy Couldn't Get Me One Of Those" (Columbia) 1963 (45-DB 4966)
  • "Woe Is Me" / "I Walked Right In" (Columbia) 1963 (DB 7026)
  • "Not Responsible" / "No Trespassing" (Columbia) 1963 (DB 7072)
  • "Look Who It Is" / "I Walked Right In" (Columbia) 1963 (DB 7130)
  • "Fever" / "Ole Father Time" (Columbia) 1964 (DB 7190)
  • "Look Over Your Shoulder" / "You Won't Come Home" (Columbia) 1964 (DB 7266)
  • "Shop Around" / "He Knows How To Love Me" (Columbia) 1964 (DB 7340)
  • "I wish I'd Never Loved You" / "I Was Only Kidding" (Columbia) 1964 (DB 7395)
  • "Tomorrow Is Another Day" / "It's So Funny I Could Cry" (Columbia) 1965 (DB 7517)
  • "Here In Your Arms" / "Only Once" (Columbia) 1965 (DB 7587)
  • "Something Wonderful" / "Just A Line" (Columbia) 1965 (DB 7690)
  • "Forget About The Bad Things" / "Wait A Little Longer" (Columbia) 1966 (DB 7810)
  • "In My Calendar" / "Empty House" (Columbia) 1966 (DB 8073)
  • "Make Me Belong To You" / "The Way Of The World" (Columbia) 1967 (DB 8148)
  • "She Needs Company" / "Stop And You Will Become Aware" (Columbia) 1967 (DB 8256)
  • "You'll Get Me Loving You" / "Silly Boy" (Pye) 1968 (7N.17600)
  • "Today Has Been Cancelled" / "Face The Music" (Pye) 1969 (7N 17714)
  • "You've Guessed" / "Take Me For A While" (Pye) 1969 (7N.17785)
  • "Take Down A Note Miss Smith" / "Couldn't you see" (Pye) 1970 (7N.17893)
  • "Waiting On The Shores Of Nowhere" / "A Glass Of Wine" (Pye) 1970 (7N.17975)
  • "The Prophet" / "Now Or Never" (Phoenix) 1972 (S NIX 128) – Recorded under the pseudonym Ella Stone (Helen) and Moss (Al Saxon)
  • "You're A Love Child" / "That's The Reason I Love You" (DJM) 1975 (DJS.363)
  • "If You Feel He Cares" / "It Only Hurts When I Love" (Magnet) 1976 (MAG 65 ) – recorded under the pseudonym SWING THING
  • "Can't Break The Habit" / "For All The Wrong Reasons" (Arista) 1977 (ARISTA 131)
  • "Every Little Bit Hurts" / "Touchin' Wood" (Arista) 1978 (ARISTA 178)
  • "You Don't Know" / "Walkin' Back To Happiness" (Old Gold) 1983 (OG 9370)
  • "Let Yourself Go" / "Funny" (Oval) 1983 (HELEN 25)
  • "Let Yourself Go" / "Cry Me A River" / "Funny" (Oval) 1983 (HELEN 25/10) 10 inch
  • "Brickyard Blues" / "Just Another Weekend" (Oval) 1984 (OVAL 26)
  • "Walking Back To Happiness (rerecorded)" / "Let's Talk About Love (rerecorded)" (Calligraph) 1989 (CLGS 702)

Chart singles[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions
UK US Aus.
1961 "Don't Treat Me Like a Child" 3
"You Don't Know" 1
"Walkin' Back to Happiness" 1 100 10[14]
1962 "Tell Me What He Said" 2
"Let's Talk About Love" 23
"Little Miss Lonely" 8
"Keep Away From Other Girls" 40
1963 "Queen For Tonight" 33
"Woe Is Me" 35
"Look Who It Is" 47
"No Trespassing" / "Not Responsible" 1
1964 "Fever" 38
1967 "Stop And You Will Become Aware"

UK [15]


  • 'Tops' With Me (Columbia) 1962 (SX 1397/SCX 3428) UK
  • Helen's Sixteen (Columbia) 1963 (SX 1494/SCX 3470)
  • Helen in Nashville (Columbia) 1963 (SX 1567)
  • Helen Hit's Out! (Columbia) 1964 (SX 1661/SCX 3533)
  • 12 Hits and a Miss Helen Shapiro (EMI Encore) 1965 (ENC 209)[15]

All the above albums were released in (stereo) and (mono) apart from Helen in Nashville, and 12 Hits and a Miss Helen Shapiro. These are her main albums from the peak of her popularity in the early 1960s from Abbey Road Studios.

Studio albums[edit]

  • All For The Love Of Music (Decca Teldec) 1978 6. 23 465
  • Straighten Up and Fly Right (Oval) 1983 (OVLP 507)
  • Echoes Of The Duke (Calligraph) 1985 (CLGLP 002/CLGCD 002)
  • The Quality Of Mercer (Calligraph) 1987 (CLGLP 014)
  • I Can't Get Started (Calligraph) 1990 (CLGCD 025)
  • The Pearl (Manna Music) 1990 (CD 040)
  • Kadosh (Manna Music) 1992 (CD 041)
  • Nothing But The Best (ICC Records) 1995 (ICCD 13530)
  • Enter Into His Gates (ICC Records) 1997 (ICCD 21830)
  • Sing Swing Together (Calligraph) 1998 (CLGCD 034)
  • By Request (Katalyst Records) 1998 (KAT 0002)
  • Simply Shapiro (Katalyst Records) 2000 (KAT0003)
  • The Gospel Collection (ICC Records) 2002 (ICCD 65430)
  • What Wondrous Love Is This (Manna Music) 2010 (CD 043)

Retrospective albums[edit]

  • The Very Best of Helen Shapiro (EMI) 1974 (SCX 6565)
  • The Very Best of Helen Shapiro (EMI) 2007

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 60. ISBN 0-85112-250-7. 
  2. ^ London Borough of Hackney, Hackney Today, issue 39, 22 April 2002.
  3. ^ Helen Shapiro: A Personal Story – V&A Museum of Childhood Archived 13 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b Helen Shapiro
  5. ^ Sunderland Echo, 6 June 1962, Interview with Shapiro on page 7
  6. ^ Billboard Magazine, July 1961. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  7. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, August 1961. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  8. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, November 1961. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  9. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, March 1962. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  10. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, August 1962. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  11. ^ Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 94. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6. 
  12. ^ Sunderland Echo, page 22, 4 May 1972.
  13. ^ "John Judd, IMDB Biography". 
  14. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, January 1962. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  15. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 494. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]