Cilla Black was ‘The cloakroom girl’ at the famous Liverpool Cavern Club, she would occasionally be invited to sing with some of the bands including The Beatles. John Lennon (of The Beatles) is supposed to have said “there’s a girl here named Cyril who wants to sing with us”, a typical Lennon skit.
It was singing with these bands that brought her to the attention of Brian Epstein while performing at the Blue Angel club in Seel Street, Liverpool. Her original name was changed from ‘Priscilla White’ because of a mistake in the Merseybeat newspaper in which Bill Harry had referred to her as ‘Cilla Black’. The name stuck with her and proved to be a change for the better.
Cilla was signed to Epstein and then to Parlaphone records where George Martin produced her first single ‘Love of The Loved’. Released in 1963 the Lennon & McCartney song did not do as well as expected (35 in UK singles chart).
Her next 2 singles ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ and ‘You’re my World’, released in 1964, both reached the number one spot in Britain and sold well worldwide, selling more than a million copies each. Cilla was not herself a songwriter so she depended on choosing contemporary songs that suited her voice or having songs specifically penned for her.
It was lucky she had Paul McCartney and John Lennon as friends and they wrote her next song ‘It’s For You’ which like her previous 2 singles also sold well nationally and internationally. ‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’ by Cilla reached only number 2 in the UK behind ‘The Righteous Brothers’ who took the number one position with the same song. The same song by different artists at 1 & 2 in the charts in the same week was almost unheard of and has only happened 3 times to date.
Epstein had plans for Cilla in the USA but it never really happened for her (‘You’re My World’ reached only 26 on Billboard) partially due to her not wanting to be away from Britain for long periods.
Burt Bacharach, co-writer of the song ‘Alfie’ arranged and conducted the orchestra on Cilla’s recording of the song. Her version of ‘Alfie’ charted at Number 9 in the UK, again a success.
Cilla was slowly but surely becoming a household name in the UK. She had performed in many live shows and worked with many famous names on TV and radio and also she had appeared in a few films.
Bobby Willis, ‘the love of her life’, took over as her manager after Epstein’s unexpected death. Although she carried on recording she made the transition to TV presenter, at one point being the best paid female presenter in the UK.
Throughout her career Cilla has and continues to be a favorite with the British public. Her records are still played frequently and she still makes guest appearances on TV, including most recently a brief appearance in the hit TV series ‘Benidorm’.
Cilla Black’s official website.