Black is a phenomenon of truly iconic proportions. Since she debuted
on the showbiz circuit in 1963 she’s conquered the mediums of
television, comedy and pop!
a singer she has released 15 studio albums, in addition to 2
successful Greatest Hits packages and 37 singles, many of which have
charted world-wide. Today Cilla is a British institution and
regarded as the first lady of television, with countless industry
awards & record breaking viewing figures to her name...
Born Priscilla Maria
Veronica White, on the 27th May 1943, she grew up in a very
musically oriented household in one of the toughest parts of
Liverpool. Living with her parents and three brothers she was often
encouraged to practice her innate singing talent by performing to
the rest of her family.
During her late teens
a sheer drive to become famous made her adamant that she would not
be labeled as just another girl "suitable for office
work". Understandably, she wanted more from life and could
regularly be found escaping to the trendy haunts of the Cavern club
where she'd hang coats earning five bob an hour. Perfectly placed
amongst the up-and-coming stars of the day she wowed them with her
singing and confidently convinced the powers that be to let her
share the spotlight on stage! She also served coffee at the Zodiac
(Duke Street) another clubbers' haven, where, incidentally, she met
her husband to be, Bobby Willis.
Thanks to a lot of
support from her friends she quickly became a mini-celebrity in her
own neighbourhood, performing alongside so many legendary acts that
were fundamental in establishing the Mersey Sound, such as The
Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Fourmost and Rory Storm and
Then, due to a twist
of fate, Priscilla, known to friends as Cilla, almost overnight
received a new stage name, when the music paper the "Mersey
Beat" misprinted it. So, as if by magic, she became Cilla
Black, a name that she favoured and happily kept.
It wasn't long until
Cilla came to the attention of Brian Epstein, a local talent scout
and manager of The Beatles. Epstein was introduced to her by none
other than John Lennon, who persuaded him to arrange an audition at
The Majestic Ballroom in Birkenhead. Unfortunately, the combination
of nerves and singing to The Beatles, who played in their key, made
the audition a flop. No matter, all was not lost, as to her surprise
she was later spotted by Epstein while singing "Bye, Bye
Blackbird" in the jazzy surroundings of the Blue Angel club.
This performance finally convinced him to sign her, so on the 6th
September 1963, she became his only female vocalist!
There was an
immediate bond between Cilla and Epstein. From the moment he met his
starlet he wanted to nurture the 'Judy Garland' qualities he
believed she possessed, having high aspirations of creating a
British icon who, in his prophetic words, would be "...one of
the biggest stars in this country for thirty or forty years".
His faith, combined with Cilla's talent, effortlessly convinced
George Martin, the renowned producer of Matt Monro, Shirley Bassey
and The Beatles, that she was worthy of signing to Parlophone
Records (a subsidiary label of the EMI Group).
Cilla Black made her debut on the British singles charts with one of
the first of many songs given to her by her peers John Lennon and
Paul McCartney. "Love of the Loved", a song she'd often
heard The Beatles perform at the Cavern, made a modest impression on
the British charts when it was released on the 27th September 1963.
This was soon to be
overshadowed by her next release, which Epstein discovered on a trip
to the USA. "Anyone Who Had a Heart", a song by Burt
Bacharach, had already proved to be a massive hit for Dionne Warwick
which Cilla, as a keen follower of the US Top 100, had already
admired prior to it being suggested. Her knockout rendition recorded
in January 1964 went on to become not only her first #1 but still,
to this day, the biggest selling single of all time by a British
female recording artist.
As luck would have
it, George Martin then acquired the perfect follow up, an Italian
ballad, "Il Mio Mondo", which he had translated -
becoming, "You're My World". This epic "torch"
song went on to become her second #1, paving the way for an influx
of other Italian songs such as Dusty Springfield's "You Don't
Have To Say You Love Me". Furthermore, it broke her into the
tough US market as well as gaining her massive support across Europe
and Australasia, culminating in hundreds of sell-out concert dates
throughout her time at EMI (1963-78).
During the sixties
Cilla managed to sustain her place at the forefront of the Brit-Pop
music scene, with one of the most impressive starts for a British
female recording artist, including 20 consecutive Top 40 triumphs on
the singles and EP charts. To place this unprecedented success into
perspective, it happened during a decade when achieving a Top 20
single meant that you had to sell 100,000 copies a day in the UK
By August 1967, only
days before his premature death, Epstein had engineered Cilla's
switch to television. It proved to be a shrewd move as, through her
own variety show for the BBC, she regularly commanded a staggering
audience of 22 million. This popularity, as many people will know,
has continued over subsequent decades, with countless shows,
industry awards and record breaking viewing figures to her name.
The Cilla Black of
today, although having focused more in recent years on phenomenally
successful television shows like "Surprise!, Surprise!"
and "Blind Date" has still gone on record to say that she
ultimately wishes to be remembered for her singing. The release
therefore of the EMI hits compilation "The Best of
1963-78" during her landmark 40th year (2015) in show business
and her subsequent resigning to the label to record her 15th studio
album "Beginnings" is testament to that musical legacy
which she is so proud.
Discover the world of
Cilla Black by picking up a copy of her new & revealing
autobiography "What's It All About?" which is out now.