Hal Shaper

b. 18 July 1931, Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa, d. 8 January 2004, Cape Town, South Africa. The youngest of three children of Jewish immigrants, Shaper's mother from Poland, his father from England,…
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Artist Biography

b. 18 July 1931, Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa, d. 8 January 2004, Cape Town, South Africa. The youngest of three children of Jewish immigrants, Shaper's mother from Poland, his father from England, in his teenage years he decided that he wanted to be a songwriter. Although he began writing for local stage performances, he also studied law, qualifying in 1955. He promptly abandoned South Africa and the law, heading for London and a career as a songwriter. After scuffling for work outside music, he found a job as a song plugger, first with Dave Toff and then with Robbins Music where he spent seven years and was encouraged and helped in achieving his dream by Alan Holmes and Joy Connock. His first big success was "Softly, As I Leave You", for which Shaper wrote the words to an Italian melody. Recorded first by Matt Monro, the song was later recorded by many other singers in the UK and the USA, among them Shirley Bassey, Bobby Darin, Lena Horne, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.

In 1964, on the heels of this song's success, Shaper formed his own company, Sparta Music. In addition to Shaper's own music, Sparta also published the music of others and was linked closely with writers and performers such as the Moody Blues, David Bowie, Desmond Dekker, Chad And Jeremy, Ian Whitcomb, and the Paragons, who had success with "The Tide Is High" as did Blondie a dozen years later and Atomic Kitten in the early 00s. Among many songs for which Shaper wrote the lyrics, with various collaborators, during the 60s and succeeding decades are "Martina" (recorded by Barbra Streisand), "My Friend The Sea" (Petula Clark), "The Years Of My Youth" (Jack Jones), "The Mysterious People" (Val Doonican), "Mon Amour" (Richard Anthony, who co-wrote the lyric using a theme from Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto De Aranjuez"), "At My Time Of Life" (Bing Crosby) and "When You Were A Tadpole" (Julie Andrews and Kermit the Frog).

Several of Shaper's songs were written for films, among them The Go-Between (1970), Papillon (1973), The Boys From Brazil (1978) and First Blood (1982), with composer collaborators such as Ron Goodwin, Nino Rota, Michel Legrand, Francis Lai, Stanley Myers and Ron Grainer. Shaper also wrote for the theatre, including two collaborations with Cyril Ornadel, Treasure Island and Great Expectations. On three occasions he won an Ivor Novello Award. In the 90s, Shaper returned to his homeland where he continued to write. Among his late works was La Bohème Noire, which updated Henry Murger's stories of La Vie De Bohème to contemporary Soweto.