Helen Shapiro

Helen Kate Shapiro (born 28 September 1946) is a British pop singer, jazz singer, and actress.[1] She is best known for her two 1961 UK chart toppers, "You Don't Know" and "Walkin' Back to Happiness", both recorded when she was just fourteen years old.

Helen Shapiro
Shapiro in 1963
Shapiro in 1963
Background information
Birth nameHelen Kate Shapiro
Born (1946-09-28) 28 September 1946 (age 74)
OriginBethnal Green, London, England
GenresPop, jazz
Occupation(s)Singer, actress
Years active1961–present

Early lifeEdit

Shapiro was born at Bethnal Green Hospital in the East End district of Bethnal Green, London.[2] Her early childhood was spent in a Clapton council flat in the London borough of Hackney, where she attended Northwold Primary School and Clapton Park Comprehensive School until Christmas 1961.[3][4] 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.[5]

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 occasionally sang with her brother Ron in the skiffle group of his youth club. She had a deep timbre to her voice, unusual in a girl not yet in her teens; school friends nicknamed her "Foghorn".[6][4]

At the age of ten, Shapiro was a singer with "Susie and the Hula Hoops" (together with her cousin, 1960s 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,[4] 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.[7] Burman's connections included John Schroeder, a young songwriter and A&R man at EMI's Columbia Records, who recorded a demo of Shapiro singing "Birth of the Blues" and, motivated by her singing, signed her to the label.[6][4]

Early careerEdit

In 1961, aged fourteen, she had a UK No. 3 hit with her first single, "Don't Treat Me Like a Child"[4][8] and two number one hits in the UK, "You Don't Know"[4][9] and "Walkin' Back to Happiness".[4][10] The latter did not top the UK chart until 19 October 1961, by which time Shapiro had reached 15. Both singles sold over a million copies, earning Helen Shapiro two gold discs.[4] Her next single release, "Tell Me What He Said", peaked at No. 2,[4][11] 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.[2]

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.[12] 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".[4] The Beatles' first national tour of Britain, in the late winter and early spring of 1963, was as one of her supporting acts.[4] During the course of the tour, the Beatles had their own first hit single, and John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the song "Misery" for her; but Shapiro's producer, Norrie Paramor, turned it down,[1] and she did not record the composition.[13] In 1995, during an episode of 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."[citation needed] 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).[14]

In 1962, Shapiro appeared as herself in the Billy Fury film Play It Cool and played the lead female role in Richard Lester's It's Trad, Dad! (which co-starred another early '60s hitmaker, Craig Douglas).[1] On 31 December 1969, Shapiro appeared in the BBC-ZDF co-production, Pop Go The Sixties, singing "Walkin' Back to Happiness".[15]

By the time she was in her late teens, Shapiro's 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 era of the 1950s.[1] 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".[16] Later, after a change of mind, she branched out as a performer in musical theatre and jazz, one of her musical interests.

Later careerEdit

Shapiro played the role of Nancy in Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! in London's West End[4] 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. Shapiro also played the part of Sally Bowles in Cabaret and starred in Seesaw to great critical acclaim.[4]

Between 1984 and 2001, she toured extensively with the 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.[4]

Her autobiography, published in 1993, is titled 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.

Since 2015, she has played in a trio called Hebron with Chrissy Rodgers and Simon Elman. They are promoted via Shapiro's ministry umbrella, Manna Music.[17]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1982 Shapiro met John Judd (real name John Williams), an actor with numerous roles in British television and cinema.[18][19] They were married on 31 August 1988.[citation needed]

In 1987, she became a Messianic Jew.[20][21] She temporarily retired from show business in 2002.[4]



Year Titles Label & no. Peak chart positions Album
1961 "Don't Treat Me Like a Child"
b/w "When I'm with You" (Non-album track)
Columbia DB 4589 3 90 4 12 Hits and a Miss
"You Don't Know"
b/w "Marvellous Lie" (Non-album track)
Columbia DB 4670 1 50 1
"Walkin' Back to Happiness"
b/w "Kiss 'N' Run"
Columbia DB 4715 1 100 6 1
1962 "Tell Me What He Said"
b/w "I Apologise"
Columbia DB 4782 2 46 4
"Let's Talk About Love"
b/w "Sometime Yesterday" (Non-album track)
Columbia DB 4824 23 31
"Little Miss Lonely"
b/w "I Don't Care"
Columbia DB 4869 8 28 9
"Keep Away from Other Girls"
b/w "Cry My Heart Out"
Columbia DB 4908 40 42
1963 "Queen for Tonight"
b/w "Daddy Couldn't Get Me One of Those" (Non-album track)
Columbia DB 4966 33 97 25th Anniversary Album
"Woe Is Me"
b/w "I Walked Right In"
Columbia DB 7026 35 91 Helen In Nashville
"Look Who It Is"
b/w "Walking in My Dreams" (from Helen's Sixteen)
Columbia DB 7130 47 33 25th Anniversary Album
"No Trespassing"
b/w "Not Responsible"
Columbia DB 7072 1 Helen In Nashville
1964 "Fever"
b/w "Ole Father Time" (Non-album track)
Columbia DB 7190 38 25th Anniversary Album
"Look Over Your Shoulder"
b/w "You Won't Come Home"
Columbia DB 7266 Non-album tracks
"Shop Around"
b/w "He Knows How to Love Me" (Non-album track)
Columbia DB 7340 Helen Hits Out!
"I Wish I'd Never Loved You"
b/w "I Was Only Kidding"
Columbia DB 7395 Non-album tracks
1965 "Tomorrow Is Another Day"
b/w "It's So Funny I Could Cry"
Columbia DB 7517
"Here in Your Arms"
b/w "Only Once" (Non-album track)
Columbia DB 7587 25th Anniversary Album
"Something Wonderful"
b/w "Just a Line" (Non-album track)
Columbia DB 7690
1966 "Forget About the Bad Things"
b/w "Wait a Little Longer"
Columbia DB 7810 Non-album tracks
"In My Calendar"
b/w "Empty House" (Non-album track)
Columbia DB 8073 25th Anniversary Album
1967 "Make Me Belong to You"
b/w "The Way of the World"
Columbia DB 8148 Non-album tracks
"She Needs Company"
b/w "Stop and You Will Become Aware"
Columbia DB 8256 25th Anniversary Album
1968 "You'll Get Me Loving You"
b/w "Silly Boy (I Love You)"
Pye 7N 17600 Non-album tracks
1969 "Today Has Been Cancelled"
b/w "Face The Music"
Pye 7N 17714 49
"You've Guessed"
b/w "Take Me for a While"
Pye 7N 17785 98
1970 "Take Down a Note, Miss Smith"
b/w "Couldn't You See"
Pye 7N 17893
"Waiting on the Shores of Nowhere"
b/w "A Glass of Wine"
Pye 17975
1972 "The Prophet"
b/w "Now or Never"
By Ella Stone (Helen Shapiro) and Moss (Al Saxon)
Phoenix 128
1975 "You're a Love Child"
b/w "That's the Reason I Love You"
DJM 363
1976 "If You Feel He Cares"
b/w "It Only Hurts When I Love"
Recorded under the pseudonym "Swing Thing"
Magnet 65
1977 "Can't Break the Habit"
b/w "For All the Wrong Reasons"
Arista 131
1978 "Every Little Bit Hurts"
b/w "Touchin' Wood"
Arista 178
1983 "Let Yourself Go"
b/w "Funny"
Oval 25 Straighten Up and Fly Right
1984 "Brickyard Blues"
b/w "Just Another Weekend"
Oval 26 Non-album tracks
1989 "Walking Back to Happiness"
b/w "Let's Talk About Love"
Both newly recorded tracks
Calligraph CLGS 702



  • Helen (Columbia) 1961
  • Helen's Hit Parade (Columbia) 1962
  • More Hits from Helen (Columbia) 1962
  • A Teenager Sings the Blues (Columbia) 1962
  • Even More Hits from Helen (Columbia) 1962
  • 'Tops' with Me No.1 (Columbia) 1963
  • 'Tops' with Me No.2 (Columbia) 1963

The EPs are repackagings of previously released material, apart from Helen and A Teenager Sings the Blues.


  • '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)[23]

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 albumsEdit

  • 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 albumsEdit

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

In popular cultureEdit

In the "Rock Notes" sketch on Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, Eric Idle jokingly refers to "Helen Shapiro" as the last of many names with which a particular rock band reinvents itself after every break-up: "That last name, their favourite, had to be dropped following an injunction, and they split up again."[24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1075/6. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ London Borough of Hackney, Hackney Today, issue 39, 22 April 2002.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Dowse, Tony (2011). The Ultimate Helen Shapiro. EMI Gold.
  5. ^ "Helen Shapiro: A Personal Story – V&A Museum of Childhood". Archived from the original on 13 June 2009.
  6. ^ a b "HELEN SHAPIRO". Electricearl.com.
  7. ^ Sunderland Echo, 6 June 1962, Interview with Shapiro, p. 7
  8. ^ Billboard Magazine, July 1961. 3 July 1961. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  9. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, August 1961. 7 August 1961. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  10. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, November 1961. 6 November 1961. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  11. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, March 1962. 31 March 1962. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  12. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, August 1962. 25 August 1962. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  13. ^ Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 94. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6.
  14. ^ T.V.com. "Ready Steady Go!: October 4, 1963: The Beatles (1st RSG! appearance), Helen Shapiro, Dusty Springfield". TV.com. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  15. ^ "Film & TV Database | POP GO THE SIXTIES! (1969)". BFI. 2 June 2010. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  16. ^ Sunderland Echo, p. 22, 4 May 1972.
  17. ^ "Manna Music website". Mannamusic.co.uk.
  18. ^ "John Judd". BFI. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  19. ^ Williams, John (2011). The Ultimate Helen Shapiro. Parlophone. Inner notes in booklet.
  20. ^ "Helen Shapiro read the Bible and knew Jesus is the Jewish Messiah", JewishTestimonies.com, Retrieved 18 April 2018
  21. ^ "Helen Shapiro". Manna Music. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  22. ^ NZ Lever Hit Parade
  23. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 494. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  24. ^ "17/18 - Rock Notes/Muddy Knees (Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album Subtitulado Español)". YouTube.

External linksEdit