Mike Hawker: Songwriter who won an Ivor Novello for 'Walkin' Back To Happiness', and also wrote for Dusty Springfield
Thursday 10 July 2014
Primarily a lyricist, Mike Hawker won an Ivor Novello Award for his song "Walkin' Back To Happiness", a No 1 in 1961 for Helen Shapiro. Two years later he wrote Dusty Springfield's first solo single, "I Only Want To Be With You".
Although Hawker was born in Bath in 1936, his father was an RAF officer stationed in Singapore. His first years were spent there but the family returned to the UK after the Japanese invasion and settled with an aunt in Barnsley.
Hawker went to university and followed it with three years as a junior officer in the RAF. While in Europe, he saw American jazzmen who, because of a dispute with the Musician's Union, were not allowed to perform in the UK. He reviewed their concerts for New Musical Express and Jazz Journal, and when he left the RAF he worked in EMI's publicity department before joining the impresario Larry Parnes to promote his artists. In 1960 he wrote "Honey, That's Alright" for Parnes' artist Sally Kelly and nursed dreams of being a professional songwriter.
Hawker was lodging with an EMI employee, John Schroeder, who was the assistant to their key producer, Norrie Paramor. Schroeder had discovered Helen Shapiro, a 14-year-old schoolgirl with a deep voice, and Paramor told him to find suitable material. Schroeder had written a catchy melody with a strong, defiant chord, and Hawker saw how he could write a lyric about teenage angst, "Don't Treat Me Like A Child", which became a Top 3 single.
Hawker had his own angst as he had set his sights upon a red-headed beauty in the Vernons Girls, Jean Ryder. He and Schroeder wrote a jazz ballad around his feelings, "You Don't Know", which was Shapiro's first No 1 and although the song is still well-known, it also deserves to be a jazz standard.
They followed it with "Walkin' Back To Happiness", the recording of which was the subject of a cinema short in the Rank Organisation's series Look At Life. In 1962 he and Schroeder wrote another Top 10 single for Shapiro, "Little Miss Lonely", and in 1963 Shapiro sang their song "Look Who It Is" to the Beatles on ITV's Ready Steady Go!
When Dusty Springfield left the Springfields, she wanted to make an impact with her first single, and Hawker and her musical director, Ivor Raymonde, wrote "I Only Want To Be With You", the title reflecting Mike's feelings for Jean, whom he had married in December 1961. After leaving the Vernons Girls, Jean sang with Maggie Stredder as the Two-Tones, but left the business to raise their children, Sarah (born in 1964) and Andy (born in 1966).
"I Only Want To Be With You" became Hawker's most lasting composition and there have been successful revivals from the Bay City Rollers (1976), the Tourists (1979) and Samantha Fox (1989). The song has also been featured in numerous films; Springfield called her a record a cross between Gerry and the Pacemakers and Carole King.
The same team wrote the follow-up "Stay Awhile", which was the closest anyone in Britain had come to copying Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. They wrote the plaintive ballad "I Wish I'd Never Loved You" for the third single, but Springfield favoured the Bacharach and David song "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself". Springfield recorded another of their songs, "Your Hurtin' Kinda Love" (1965), an excellent ballad which only scraped into the Top 40.
Hawker wrote songs for many female artists of the 1960s including Susan Maughan, Jackie Trent, Glenda Collins, Julie Rogers, Maureen Evans and Shapiro's cousin, Susan Singer, although in all cases without chart success. He had songs recorded by the Karl Denver Trio and Matt Monro and reached the American performers Eydie Gorme and Jimmy Gilmer. His more bizarre compositions include "Men Will Deceive You" for the actress Honor Blackman; "Humpity Dumpity", a ridiculous twist song for Gene Vincent; and "Grotty" for Ivor Raymonde and his Orchestra.
Hawker wrote several songs with Brian Bennett of the Shadows, including the hit single, "Help It Along" (1973) for Cliff Richard. He had many jobs in the industry, notably signing the British jazz musicians Tubby Hayes and Harry South to Mercury, which brought the approval of the label's American executive, Quincy Jones. He recognised Paul Simon's talent on his first visit to the UK but he was too late to do anything about it, and he discovered the singer/songwriter Labi Siffre.
Hawker had a series of serious illnesses in the last years of his life. His aim was to learn Romanian so that he could speak to his granddaughter in her first language.
Michael Edwin Hawker, lyricist and songwriter: born Bath 29 November 1936; married Jean Ryder (marriage dissolved; one daughter, one son); partner to Mar Bernabeu; died 4 May 2014.
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