Helen Shapiro was born at Bethnal Green Hospital in the East End district of Bethnal Green, London, 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'. At the age of twelve, she was lead singer of "Susie and the Hoops," a school band which was a trio featuring Marc Bolan (then using his real name of Marc Feld) as guitarist.
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. 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. 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'. The Beatles' first national tour of Britain in the late winter/early spring of 1963 was as her supporting act. During the course of the tour, the Beatles had their first hit single and John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the song "Misery" intended for her, but Shapiro did not record the composition. In 1995, during a This is Your Life installment 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."
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 Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw and Lulu - Shapiro appeared old-fashioned and emblematic of the bee-hived pre-Beatles era. 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 believer in Jesus as the Messiah. She has issued four Messianic albums since then, as well as appearing in a number of gospel outreach meetings, 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, she resides in the town of Highworth, Wiltshire.
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. (Wikipedia)