Willy Russell was born in Liverpool in 1947. He became a hairdresser on leaving school, then undertook a variety of jobs, also writing songs which were performed in local folk clubs. He also wrote songs and sketches for local radio programmes. At 20 years of age, he returned to college and became a teacher in Toxteth, after which he began to become interested in writing drama.
His first play, Keep your Eyes Down, was produced in 1971, and he became well-known after his musical about the Beatles, John, Paul, George, Ringo … and Bert, ran for eight weeks at Liverpool Everyman Theatre. It was transferred to the West End and won the Evening Standard and London Theatre Critic Award for best musical in 1974.
Since then he has written several plays, including Educating Rita, about a working-class woman who decides to study English with the Open University, and Shirley Valentine, about a housewife who becomes transformed after a holiday in Greece. In 2000, Willy Russell published his first novel, The Wrong Boy.