Lena Hilda Zavaroni (4 November 1963 – 1 October 1999) was a Scottish child singer and a television show host. With her album Ma! (He's Making Eyes At Me) at ten years of age, she is the youngest person in history to have an album in the top ten of the UK Albums Chart.
Lena Zavaroni was born into an Italian-Scottish family at Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute. Her father Victor, who had come from Genoa, would sometimes play the accordion in clubs. She was discovered in the summer of 1973 by record producer Tommy Scott, who was on holiday in Rothesay and heard her singing with her father and uncle in a band. Scott contacted impresario Phil Solomon, which led to his partner Dorothy Solomon's becoming Lena's manager.
In 1974 Lena appeared on Opportunity Knocks hosted by Hughie Green and won the show for a record-breaking five weeks running. She followed this with the album Ma! (He's Making Eyes At Me), a collection of classic and then-recent pop standards which reached number eight in the UK album chart. At 10 years, 146 days old, Lena is still the youngest person to have an album in the Top 10.
Lena also sang at a Hollywood charity show with Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball in 1974. Following this, Lena guest-starred on The Carol Burnett Show. She also appeared on The Morecambe and Wise Show, the 1976 Royal Variety Show and performed at the White House for US President Gerald Ford.
While attending London's Italia Conti Academy stage school, Lena met and became long-term friends with child star Bonnie Langford. The two starred in the ITV special Lena and Bonnie. On Wednesday 6 September 1978, the BBC broadcast Lena Zavaroni on Broadway. In 1979 Lena had her own TV series on the BBC called Lena Zavaroni and Music, and from 1980 to 1982 she had a TV series called Lena.
At 16, with a trail of appearances in variety, summer shows and pantomimes behind her and a year back in Bute, she was rushed to hospital in Glasgow with anorexia. Her weight had dropped to below five stone. No longer the child sensation, and having difficulty finding an audience that didn't mind not seeing "the bouncy little girl", Zavaroni spent years in and out of hospitals and working spasmodically, although she did complete her own BBC TV series.
After her parents split up in 1981, her father re-married and he and Lena would occasionally sing in clubs together. In 1989, too ill to work regularly - and often on anti-depressants - Zavaroni married her only boyfriend, a computer expert named Peter Wiltshire. A few months after the wedding, her mother committed suicide. The marriage lasted 18 months, until Wiltshire said he was tired of eating alone and coping with Zavaroni's reclusive behaviour.
By 1992, Zavaroni was living on the dole in a council flat in Hertfordshire. Her weight had fallen to three stone and she had asked doctors for a brian operation - she believed her anorexia and depression were caused by a brain malfunction, even though scans showed nothing. Three weeks ago, she underwent an operation in Cardiff to stimulate her appetite and reduce anxiety.
In September 1999 Lena was admitted to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff for a psychosurgical operation. It was described as "pioneering". After the operation, she appeared to be in a satisfactory condition and after a week she was "making telephone calls, cheerful and engaging in conversation," even asking her doctor if he thought there was any chance that she would get back on stage. However, three weeks after the operation, she developed a chest infection and died from bronchial pneumonia on 1 October. She weighed less than five stone (70 lb, 32 kg). She was 35 years old. (Info edited from Wikipedia & The Guardian)