Were one to have a chequered career, it would undoubtedly be Helen. Born in 1946, by the age of 14 years old, in 1961, she had a UK No. 3 hit with her first single, 'Don't Treat Me Like a Child'. Her rise to fame as a singer was meteoric. In the year of 1961, another two number 1 hits followed in quick succession; 'You Don't Know' and 'Walking Back to Happiness'. Her mature voice made her an overnight sensation, as well as the youngest female chart-topper in the UK.
Shapiro's final UK Top Ten hit single was with the ballad 'Little Miss Lonely', Before she was sixteen years old, Shapiro had been voted Britain's 'Top Female Singer'. After spending a few years touring the country as a supporting act with top groups and singers at the time, Helen was fast becoming a spent force on the pop scene. A few years were spent by her performing and appearing on the occasional television show, appearing in the Billy Fury film 'Play it Cool' as herself. She had another film role in Richard Lester's movie, 'It's Trad, Dad!',
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 working men'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".Later, after a change of mind, she branched out as a performer in stage musicals, and jazz (being her first love musically).
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. Shapiro also played the part of Sally Bowles in "Cabaret" and starred in "Seesaw" to great critical acclaim. 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.
Although I never met Helen Shapiro, during the 1990s, when I was a big fish in a small pond, we did share the same programme on a cultural extravaganza day in Bolton. Helen naturally appeared as top billing and my name, as an up and coming Yorkshire author, was very close to the bottom of the programme. You win some, you lose some!
Love and peace. Bill xxx