Helen Shapiro Biography

28 September 1946, Bethnal Green, London, England. Shapiro drew considerable attention when, as a 14-year-old schoolgirl, she scored a UK Top 3 hit with ‘Don’t Treat Me Like A Child’. A deep intonation belied her youth, and by the end of 1961 the singer had scored two chart-topping singles with ‘You Don’t Know’ and ‘Walkin’ Back To Happiness’. This success was maintained the following year with ‘Tell Me What He Said’ (number 2) and ‘Little Miss Lonely’ (number 8), as Shapiro won concurrent polls as Best British Female Singer and was voted Best Newcomer by the Variety Club of Great Britain. However, having recorded the original version of ‘It’s My Party’ during an artistically fruitful session in Nashville, she was disappointed when an acetate reached Lesley Gore, who enjoyed a massive international hit using a similar arrangement. Shapiro’s producer, Norrie Paramor, also vetoed the opportunity to record ‘Misery’, composed with Shapiro in mind by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Indeed the advent of the Beatles helped to undermine the singer’s career.

Despite being younger than many beat group members, Shapiro was perceived as belonging to a now outmoded era and despite a series of excellent singles, was eclipsed by ‘newcomers’ Cilla Black and Dusty Springfield. The late 60s proved more fallow still and, barring one pseudonymous release, Shapiro did not record at all between 1970 and 1975. A Russ Ballard song, ‘Can’t Break The Habit’, became a minor hit in Europe during 1977 and in turn engendered the German release All For The Love Of Music, a set sadly denied a UK release. Six years later Shapiro resurfaced on writer Charlie Gillett’s Oval label. Straighten Up And Fly Right showed the singer had lost none of her early power and this excellent collection of standards was rightly acclaimed.

A series of equally confident collaborations with jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton ensued, and Shapiro continued to maintain a high profile through radio, television and live appearances, singing jazz-influenced big band material and gospel songs (she became a born-again Christian in 1987). She also made an impressive London cabaret debut at the Café Royal in 1995. In 2002 Shapiro announced that she would be retiring from live performances, apart from her gospel singing.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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