Cilla Black died aged seventy-two on 1st August 2015 at her holiday home near Estepona in Spain. A spokes-person for the High Court of Justice in Andalusía suggested that an accident may have been a contributing factor to Cilla's death. Following the results of a post-mortem examination, her sons confirmed that Cilla had died from a stroke following a fall in her Spanish villa.
A ten-page pathologist's report confirmed that Cilla Black had suffered a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage after falling backwards and hitting her head, it was thought, on a terrace wall. It was believed she had not been found for at least four hours.
In 2014, she had stated that she wanted to die when she reached 75, as her mother, who suffered from progressive osteoporosis, had lived to 84 and her final years were difficult. According to a friend, she had recently said that she was approaching death, complaining of failing eyesight and hearing as well as arthritis. Cilla Black had been suffering with rheumatoid arthritis for years and was in "considerable agony" towards the end of her life.
In the days following her death, a book of condolence was opened at the Liverpool Town Hall. UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated, "Cilla Black was a huge talent who made a significant contribution to public life in Britain. My thoughts are with her family." Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Sheridan Smith, Holly Johnson, Cliff Richard and Paul O'Grady were among friends and colleagues in the entertainment industry who expressed their sorrow at Cilla Black's death. Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, who had been a friend for decades, said, "She was the girl next door that everybody loved and would have loved as a daughter, a daughter-in-law." Songwriter Burt Bacharach said, "It will always be a most special memory for me of recording her on Alfie in Abbey Road Studios in 1965." Broadcaster Noel Edmonds said that she "captured the hearts of the British people" because "she was our Cilla - there were no airs and graces". Cilla Black's funeral service was held on 20 August 2015 at St Mary's Church, Woolton. Tom Williams, the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool, led the service; Cliff Richard sang at the service and Paul O'Grady gave a eulogy. Spoken tributes, prayers and readings were made by Cilla Black's sons Ben and Robert, Jimmy Tarbuck and Christopher Biggins. The Beatles' song "The Long and Winding Road" was played as the coffin left the church. She was buried in a private ceremony at Allerton Cemetery in Allerton on the same day.
On 21st August 2015, the day after her funeral, 'The Very Best of Cilla Black', a compilation album of her hit songs, went to number one on the UK Albums Chart. It was Cilla Black's first number one album.
Cilla Black was born Priscilla Maria Veronica White on May 2th 1943 in Liverpool, UK, and grew up in the Scotland Road part of the city. Her parents were John Patrick White (1904–1971) and Priscilla Blythen (1911–1996). She had a Welsh grandfather, Joseph Henry Blythen (1883–1966), who was born in Wrexham, and Irish great-grandparents on both her father's and mother's sides of the family. She was raised in a Roman Catholic household, and attended St. Anthony's School, situated behind St. Anthony's Church in Scotland Road, and Anfield Commercial College, where she learned office skills.
Determined to become an entertainer, Cilla 'White' gained a part-time job as a cloakroom attendant at Liverpool's Cavern Club, best known for its connection with the Beatles. Her impromptu performances impressed the Beatles and others. She was encouraged to begin singing by a Liverpool promoter, Sam Leach, who booked her first gig at the Casanova Club, on London Road, where she appeared as "Swinging Cilla". She became a guest singer with the Merseybeat bands Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes and, later, with the Big Three. Meanwhile, she worked as a waitress at the Zodiac coffee lounge, where she later met her future husband Bobby Willis. She was featured in an article in the first edition of the local music newspaper Mersey Beat by the paper's publisher, Bill Harry, who mistakenly referred to her as Cilla Black, rather than her real surname, 'White'. She then took the name Cilla Black as her stage name.
Cilla Black signed her first contract with long-time friend and neighbour, Terry McCann, but this contract was never honoured as it was made when she was under age and her father subsequently signed her with Brian Epstein.
Cilla was introduced to Epstein by John Lennon, who persuaded him to audition her. John was encouraged by his Aunt Mimi to introduce Cilla to Epstein. Epstein had a portfolio of local artists but initially showed little interest in her. Her first audition was a failure, partly because of nerves, and partly because the Beatles (who supported her) played the songs in their usual vocal key rather than re-pitching them for Cilla Black's voice.
In her autobiography What's It All About? she wrote: I'd chosen to do "Summertime", but at the very last moment I wished I hadn't. I adored this song, and had sung it when I came to Birkenhead with the Big Three, but I hadn't rehearsed it with the Beatles and it had just not occurred to me that they would play it in the wrong key. It was too late for second thoughts, though. With one last wicked wink at me, John set the group off playing. I'd been right to worry. The music was not in my key and any adjustments that the boys were now trying to make were too late to save me. My voice sounded awful. Destroyed—and wanting to die—I struggled on to the end.
But after seeing her another day, at the Blue Angel jazz club, Epstein contracted with Black as his only female client on 6th September 1963. Epstein introduced Cilla Black to George Martin who signed her to Parlophone Records and produced her début single, "Love of the Loved" (written by Lennon and McCartney), which was released only three weeks after she joined Epstein. Despite an appearance on ABC Television's popular Thank Your Lucky Stars, the single peaked at a modest No. 35 in the UK, a relative failure compared to the débuts of Epstein's most successful artists (the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas). Cilla Black's second single, released at the beginning of 1964, was a cover of the Burt Bacharach–Hal David composition "Anyone Who Had a Heart", which had been written for Dionne Warwick. The single beat Warwick's recording into the UK charts and rose to No. 1 in Britain in February 1964 (spending three weeks there), selling 800,000 UK copies in the process. Her second UK No. 1 success, "You're My World", was an English-language rendition of the Italian popular song "Il Mio Mondo" by composer Umberto Bindi. She also enjoyed chart success with the song in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, South Africa and Canada. Both songs sold over one million copies worldwide, and were awarded gold discs.
Cilla Black's two No. 1 successes were followed by the release of another Lennon–McCartney composition, "It's for You", as her fourth UK single. Paul McCartney played piano at the recording session and the song proved to be another success for Cilla, peaking at No. 7 on the UK charts.
Cilla Black belonged to a generation of British female singers which included Dusty Springfield, Helen Shapiro, Petula Clark, Sandie Shaw, Marianne Faithfull, and Lulu. These artists (other than Petula Clark) were not singer-songwriters but interpreters of 1960s contemporary popular music by songwriters and producers. Cilla Black recorded much material during this time, including songs written by Phil Spector, Randy Newman, Tim Hardin and Burt Bacharach. All were produced by George Martin at Abbey Road Studios in London NW8.
Cilla Black's version of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (1965) reached Number 2 on the UK charts, a week later the Righteous Brothers' original version of the same song went to Number 1 while Cilla Black's version dropped to No. 5. The single wasn't critically well received, however; the Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham took out an advert in the Melody Maker to deride Cilla's efforts compared with the original.
Being so closely associated with the Beatles, Cilla Black became one of a select group of artists in the 1964–65 period (the others being Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas and Peter and Gordon) to record more than one Lennon–McCartney composition.Cilla Black continued to record Lennon–McCartney compositions throughout her time with Parlophone (1963–1973) and her recordings of "Yesterday", "For No One" and "Across the Universe" became radio favourites. Paul McCartney said Cilla Black's 1972 interpretation of "The Long and Winding Road" was the definitive version of the song.
Cilla Black's career in the United States, although enthusiastically supported by Epstein and his PR team, was limited to a few television appearances (The Ed Sullivan Show among them), a 1965 cabaret season at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, and success with "You're My World", which made it to No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was to be her only American Top 30 chart success, and Elvis Presley had a copy on his personal jukebox at his Graceland home. Cilla Black recognised that to achieve popular status in the USA she would need to devote much time to touring there. But she was plagued by homesickness and a sense of loneliness and returned to the UK.
During 1966 Cilla Black recorded the Bacharach-David song "Alfie", written as the signature song to the 1966 feature film of the same name. While Cher sang "Alfie" on the closing credits of the American release of the film and Cilla Black on the UK version, Cilla Black was the first and only artist to have a hit with the song in the UK . "Alfie" went on to become a success for both Cher (in 1966) and Dionne Warwick (in 1967) in the USA. Cilla Black's version of "Alfie" was arranged and conducted by Bacharach himself at the recording session at Abbey Road. Burt Bacharach insisted on 31 separate takes, and Cilla Black cited the session as one of the most demanding of her recording career. For Bacharach's part, he said "... there weren't too many white singers around, who could convey the emotion that I felt in many of the songs I wrote but that changed with people like Cilla Black".
By the end of 1966, Cilla Black had been a guest on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's show Not Only... But Also, had appeared on The Eamonn Andrews Show, and in a Ray Galton–Alan Simpson revue in London's West End—Way Out in Piccadilly—alongside Frankie Howerd, and had starred in the television special 'Cilla' at the Savoy, which was one of the most watched music specials of the 1960s.
Brian Epstein's attempts to make Cilla Black a film actress were less successful. A brief appearance in the "beat" film Ferry 'Cross the Mersey (1965) and a leading role alongside David Warner in the psychedelic comedy Work Is a Four-Letter Word (1968) were largely ignored by film critics. In a 1997 interview with Record Collector magazine, Cilla Black revealed she was asked to appear in the film The Italian Job (1969), playing the part of Michael Caine's girlfriend, but negotiations fell through between producers and her management over her fee.
Epstein died of an accidental drug overdose in August 1967, not long after negotiating a contract with the BBC for Cilla Black to appear in a television series of her own. Relations between Epstein and Cilla Black had somewhat soured during the year prior to his death, largely because he was not paying her career enough attention and the fact that her singles "A Fool Am I" (UK No. 13, 1966) and "What Good Am I?" (UK No. 24, 1967) were not big successes.
In her autobiography, Cilla Black said that Brian Epstein had tried to pacify her by negotiating a deal that would see her representing the UK in the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest. However, Cilla Black refused on the basis that Sandie Shaw had won the previous year's contest, and that the chances of another British female artist winning were small.
Cilla Black's boyfriend and songwriter Bobby Willis assumed management responsibilities after Epstein died. After the relatively disappointing performance of "I Only Live to Love You" (UK No. 26, 1967), Cilla Black hit a new purple patch in her recording career, starting with "Step Inside Love" in 1968 (UK No. 8), which McCartney wrote especially for her as the theme for her new weekly BBC television variety series. Other successes followed in 1969: "Conversations" (UK No. 7), "Surround Yourself With Sorrow" (written by Bill Martin, Phil Coulter, UK No. 3), "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind" (No. 20). Cilla Black had a further big hit with "Something Tells Me (Something's Gonna Happen Tonight)" (UK No. 3) in 1971.
Cilla Black's association with the Beatles continued. At the 1971 Cannes Film Festival she joined George Harrison, Ringo Starr and singer Marc Bolan to attend a screening of the John Lennon–Yoko Ono experimental film Erection. She also holidayed with Harrison and Starr on a trip aboard a yacht chartered by Starr. "Photograph" was written on this trip—originally intended for Cilla Black—but Starr decided to record it himself. George Harrison also wrote two songs for Cilla Black: "The Light that has Lighted the World" and "I'll Still Love You (When Every Song is Sung)". The latter she recorded during 1974 with her then producer David Mackay, but it was not heard publicly until 2003 when it was included on a retrospective collection entitled Cilla: The Best of 1963–78.
In 1993 Cilla released Through the Years, an album of new material featuring duets with Dusty Springfield, Cliff Richard and Barry Manilow. Ten years later, in 2003, she released the album Beginnings ... Greatest Hits and New Songs.
During 2006–07, Cilla Black's 1971 single "Something Tells Me (Something's Gonna Happen Tonight)" was used as the soundtrack to a new British advertising campaign for Ferrero Rocher chocolates. During the 2008–09 pantomime season, Cilla Black returned to live musical performance in the pantomime Cinderella, appearing as the Fairy Godmother. Cilla Black was part of an all-Scouse cast assembled in this three-hour stage spectacular to mark the end of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture. The show incorporated a number of Cilla Black's successes, which she performed live, including "You're My World", "Something Tells Me", "Step Inside Love" and "I Can Sing a Rainbow". Cilla Black received rave reviews for her singing and overall performance.
On 7 September 2009, a total of 13 original studio albums (the first seven produced by George Martin) recorded by Cilla Black between 1963 and 2003 were released for digital download. These albums featured an array of musical genres. Also released by EMI at the same time was a double album and DVD set, The Definitive Collection (A Life in Music), featuring rare BBC video footage; a digital download album of specially commissioned re-mixes Cilla All Mixed Up; a remixed single on digital download of "Something Tells Me".
For the 2010 winter pantomime season,Cilla Black appeared in Cinderella at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
In October 2013, Parlophone (the record label which launched her career in 1963) released the career-spanning CD The Very Best of Cilla Black—containing all 19 of her UK Top 40 singles, new club remixes plus a bonus DVD of her 1966 TV music special Cilla at the Savoy.
Cilla Black was the best-selling British female recording artist in the UK during the 1960s, releasing a total of 15 studio albums and 37 singles.
On 15th January 1975 Cilla Black performed as the main entertainer of the first of six half-hour situation comedy plays. The series, broadcast by ITV, was entitled Cilla's Comedy Six and was written by Ronnie Taylor. During May 1975 the Writers' Guild of Great Britain named Cilla Black as Britain's Top Female Comedy Star. The following year, ATV was commissioned to film six more plays as the initial series had accrued healthy viewing figures and remained constantly among the highest-scoring three shows of the week. During August 1976 Cilla Black reprised her role as a comedy actress in Cilla's World of Comedy which featured her theme song and new single "Easy in Your Company".
Between 2013 and 2014 Cilla Black was set to co-star in a new BBC sitcom Led Astray, alongside Paul O'Grady - the pilot episode was recorded on 31 October 2013. However the show was shelved when the pair were unable to cope with the long hours of filming.
By the beginning of the 1980s Cilla Black was performing mainly in cabaret and concerts; television appearances were rare. According to Christopher Biggins's autobiography she "stormed back into the public consciousness with a barnstorming performance as a guest on Wogan in 1983, proving that we can all have second chances" and after her appearance, people were "desperately trying to find her the right comeback vehicle". Cilla presented Cilla Black's Christmas (1983), performing a comedy-duet with Frankie Howerd.
Cilla Black signed a contract with London Weekend Television, becoming the host of two of the most popular and long-running evening entertainment shows of the 1980s and 1990s—Blind Date (1985–2003) and Surprise Surprise (1984–2001). She also presented the game show The Moment of Truth (1998–2001). All programmes were mainstream ratings winners and consolidated her position as the highest-paid female performer on British television.
Her TV appearances made her spoken mannerisms ("Lorra lorra laughs", for example) and her habit of referring familiarly to her fellow presenters ("Our Graham") well known.
Cilla Black's most notable television performances after her resignation from LWT included Parkinson, So Graham Norton, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Room 101 twice (once with Paul Merton and once with the current host, Frank Skinner), and a one off show titled Cilla Live! for Living TV. Black was a judge on the first series of the reality TV series Soapstar Superstar, featured in an episode of the series Eating with... and guest presented editions of The Paul O'Grady Show in 2006 and The Friday Night Project for Channel 4 in 2007.
In 2006, Cilla Black took part in the BBC Wales programme Coming Home about her Welsh family history, with roots in Wrexham and Holywell.
In 2008 Cilla Black recorded a pilot for the Sky 1 dating show Loveland. The show was to be a ten-part "21st century" dating programme for the following year. Unlike Blind Date, contestants would not sit in front of a studio audience, but would be 'hidden' behind real-time animations as they dated each other. Each episode would conclude with the contestant picking their preferred animated character before meeting the real-life person.
In October 2009 Cilla Black guest anchored Loose Women and on 28 November 2009 appeared on Sky 1 to present TV's Greatest Endings.
Between September 2010 and June 2011 she made guest panel list appearances and in 2011 also appeared, as herself, in the first episode of series 4 of ITV's Benidorm.
At the 2001 Royal Variety Performance, Cilla Black performed a scene from the musical Gypsy alongside Paul O'Grady (in his role as Lily Savage) and Barbara Windsor.
ITV honoured Cilla Black's 50 years in show business with a one-off entertainment special which aired on 16 October 2013. The show, called The One and Only Cilla Black, starred Cilla Black alongside Paul O'Grady, who hosted the show. The show celebrated Cilla Black's career and included a special trip back to Cilla Black's home city of Liverpool, a host of celebrity friends and some surprise music guests. Cilla Black paid homage to Blind Date with the return of its most popular contestants and saw her star in a special edition of Coronation Street.
In 2014, Cilla Black was the subject of a three-part television drama series, Cilla, focusing especially on her rise to fame in 1960s Liverpool and her relationship with Bobby Willis. ITV aired the first instalment on 15 September 2014, starring BAFTA award-winning actress Sheridan Smith.
Cilla Black was married to her manager, Bobby Willis, for 30 years from 1969 until he died from lung cancer on 23 October 1999. They had three sons: Robert (born 1970, who became her manager), Ben (born 1974) and Jack (born 1980).
Cilla Black was at one time a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party and publicly voiced her admiration of Margaret Thatcher, stating in 1993 that Thatcher had "put the 'great' back into Great Britain". In April 1992 she appeared on stage at a Conservative Party rally and made prominent calls for the party's re-election under the leadership of John Major. However, in a 2004 interview with The Guardian, Cilla Black claimed that she was "apolitical". The Liverpool Echo also quoted her as saying: "as for the politics thing, I'm not a Conservative."
In August 2014, Cilla Black was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.
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Song: Anyone Who Had a Heart by Cilla Black