Mike Hawker was born in Bath, Somerset, England. His father was an RAF officer, who was posted to Singapore where Mike and the family lived happily until the Japanese invaded the territory during the 2nd World War.
Mike, his elder brother Christopher and his then pregnant mother fled to England and lived in the West Country with their aunt, then near Barnsley in Yorkshire.
Their father returned six years later after the end of the war to meet with the daughter Rosemary that he had never seen. They later had another daughter Shirley.
Mike was a bright, intelligent student. When he finished university in the early 1950’s, rather than wait for his National Service call up, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and signed on for a three year contract as an RAF officer.
When Mike was stationed in Germany, he used his weekend passes, to go to different towns in both Germany and France to see top American jazz musicians perform with his RAF friend Peter Prince. Peter also went on to have a great career in the music business.
At that point in time, the Musician’s Unions in the USA and Britain did not have an agreement for musicians to travel and perform in each other’s countries.
Mike wrote reviews of these concerts, which he sent to NME and Jazz Journal in the UK. His journalistic ability was so good that when he finished his RAF service, they offered him the editorship of the Journal.
He declined and instead accepted an offer to work for EMI Records. He worked for EMI until offered a job at the Larry Parnes agency. Here he helped manage the careers of the top UK pop and rock artists/
In 1960, there was a TV show, live every Saturday night called Oh Boy, one of the singers on that show, was a girl called Jean Ryder. Mike saw her on the TV and turned to his friend and said; ‘I’m going to marry her’.
Marry her he did, on the December 1 1961. In 1964 Jean gave birth to their daughter Sarah Louise and in 1966 their son Andrew Michael Hawker was born.
At this point Mike had already been writing songs for some time. In 1961 Helen Shapiro recorded Don’t Treat Me Like a Child which reached number three in the UK. It was followed by two numbers one’s in the same year; You Don’t Know and Walking Back To Happiness.
More hit records followed, with Walking Back to Happiness winning Mike the Ivor Novello award for the biggest selling song of the year.
Mike then wrote a song which Dusty Springfield recorded for her first solo single. I Only Wanna Be With You soared up the charts and helped launch Dusty’s career. Some years later the song earned Mike another award for being one of the most recorded songs by different artists worldwide.
By 1980 it had sold more than four million copies worldwide – that figure is now more than doubled!! He also wrote other songs for Dusty including Stay Awhile, Your Hurting Kind of Love and I Wish I’d Never Loved You. He also wrote many songs with Brian Bennett of The Shadows, amongst others.
During these years, Mike opened an office in Tin Pan Alley and had a stable of artists that he managed and achieved recording contracts for. He gave Labi Siffre his first recording deal.
He was then offered an A&R job at Mercury Records. He was the youngest manager of A&R at any UK record company at the time.
No one was recording jazz in the UK in the sixties, so Mike put his neck on the line and signed the Harry South Big Band and Tubby Hayes, a phenomenal British jazz talent.
In New York, Mike’s opposite number was curious as to whom this English guy was, who was bold enough to give jazz artists recording deals, so he flew over to meet him.
Mike nearly dropped through the floor when Quincy Jones walked in. He was one of the jazz musicians that he had seen in France and written reviews about, one of his heroes. Quincy took Jean and Mike out to dinner and on to a club where Dudley Moore was playing.
The most excited Mike was ever, about an artist, was when a young guy walked into his office with a guitar. He sat on the edge of Mike’s desk and played songs to him all afternoon. That young man was Paul Simon.
Paul was signed to a label in the States where he had recorded a couple of tracks with Art Garfunkel without having much success. Therefore Paul had decided to visit the UK and was playing obscure little folk clubs all over Britain. His wonderful Homeward Bound was written on a cold winters night at a train station somewhere in middle England.
Mike approached Paul’s label to see if he could get him released from his contract. While they were waiting for a reply, Mike and Paul wrote a number of songs together. Unfortunately, as a UK A&R man had shown an interest in Paul, the American record company re-evaluated their artist and decided to record him again – the rest is history. Paul did write to Mike after his success to thank him for his help.
Mike, in the course of his career, also worked in the publishing department of the Cliff Richard Organisation.
In later years, Mike decided to concentrate on his writing and has written a number of books and film scripts, travelling extensively to research them.
Sadly his health began to deteriorate and he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The cancer was extensive but he approached this with stoicism and never complained once.
His oncologist called him ‘Miracle Man’ when Mike was finally given an all clear. The medical staff at the Royal Marsden didn’t think that he could survive the massive operation and treatment he went through, but they didn’t know Mike.
Tragically, he was recently diagnosed with the need for a double heart by-pass and an aortic valve replacement.
Again, he seemed to pull through and the surgeon said he was pleased with how the operation had gone and expected Mike to make a full recovery. Within a few days, he was rushed back to hospital where he lost his fight for the life he so loved.
He had just started learning Romanian so that he could speak to his young granddaughter Jessica Jean in her first language.
Mike left behind his partner of 20 years, Mar Bernabeu, whom he met at a friend’s party in 1990. Mar was with him at all times during his recent illnesses and was a great support to him. Also his two children Sarah and Andy, Sarah’s husband Mark and Andy’s partner Otilia, who became like a second daughter to him, and who loved Mike as a real father. He also adored his grandchildren, Jack and Sam with whom he had a very special relationship and his granddaughter Jessica Jean.
He was a good man. And will be greatly missed by family and friends alike!
Mike Hawker – 29-11-1936 / 04-05-2014