The wonderful Cilla Black
Visit Cilla at http://www.cillablack.com for a free sample of the remixed single of Cilla Black's 1970s Top 3 hit "SOMETHING TELLS ME" due out 7 Sept or on her MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/cillablack
“I had 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 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. Cilla Black ”
Cilla Black OBE (born Priscilla Maria Veronica White on 27 May 1943) is an English singer, actress and television performer who has been successful as an entertainer from 1963 through the present day. She is most famous worldwide for her successful singles "Anyone Who Had A Heart", "You're My World", and "Alfie".
After a successful recording career and a brief time as a comedy actress, she became the best paid female presenter in British television history. In September 2009, Cilla's 45 years in showbusiness is celebrated by EMI (the record label which launched her career in 1963) with the release of a new CD/DVD set alongside a series of other digital download releases.
Cilla Black was born in Liverpool to a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. She can be regarded[who?] as the first and only important female performer to emerge from Liverpool during the 1960s heyday of the Mersey Sound, popularized by the global Beatles phenomenon. Priscilla White, as she was then, was discovered by Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager. His management and George Martin's production skills assisted Black to become one of the most successful British popular music singers of the period. She became a formidable ballad singer. Her successes lasted longer than those of any Epstein artist, with the obvious exception of the Beatles themselves.
Determined to become an entertainer, she had managed to get a part-time job as a cloakroom attendant at Liverpool's Cavern Club, best known for its association with the Beatles. Impromptu performances impressed the Beatles and others. 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. She was also, meantime, a waitress at the Zodiac coffee lounge, where she was to meet her future husband Bobby Willis.
Epstein had a portfolio of local artists. At first he showed little interest in Cilla, billed as Cilla White or Swinging Cilla. She was introduced to Epstein by John Lennon, who persuaded him to audition her. Her first audition was a failure, partly because of nerves, and partly because the Beatles (who supported her) played the songs in their vocal key rather than re-pitching them for Cilla's voice. In her autobiography What's It All About?
But after seeing her at a later date, at the Blue Angel jazz club, Epstein contracted with Cilla as his only female client on 6 September 1963. The local music newspaper Mersey Beat misprinted her name as Cilla Black, but Epstein liked the sound of it.
Epstein introduced Cilla to George Martin who signed her to Parlophone Records and produced her debut single, "Love of the Loved" (written by Lennon and McCartney), which was released only three weeks after she contracted with Epstein. The single peaked at a modest number 35, a failure compared to debut releases of Epstein's other artists.
Her second single, released at the beginning of 1964, was the Burt Bacharach-Hal David composition "Anyone Who Had a Heart". The single scored #1 in Britain and became, for that time, the best selling single by a female artist in the history of popular music in England.
Her second UK #1 success, "You're My World", was an English-language rendition of the Italian popular song Il Mio Mondo. She also enjoyed chart success with the song in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, South Africa and Canada. This was followed by another Lennon-McCartney composition, It's For You. Paul McCartney played piano at the recording session and the song proved to be another major international success for Black.
Cilla Black belonged to a generation of British female singers which included Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Sandie Shaw, and Lulu. These artists were not singer-songwriters but interpreters of 1960s contemporary popular music song writers/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.
Black's version of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" scored no. 2 in the UK charts and was stopped from going to no. 1 by the original version of the same song, performed by The Righteous Brothers. This was the first of only three occasions in the history of the British Top 40 where the same song, recorded by two different artists, held the top 2 positions in the chart in the same week.
Being so closely associated with The Beatles, Cilla became the first artist to cover many Lennon-McCartney compositions. Her recordings of "Yesterday", "For No One" and "Across The Universe" were acclaimed critically and became radio favourites. McCartney also went on record stating that Cilla's 1972 interpretation of "The Long And Winding Road" represented for him how he always intended the song to be sung.
Black's career in the United States, although begun enthusiastically 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, and a success with You're My World which scored #26 on the Billboard charts. The song was to be her only Stateside chart success, and Elvis Presley had a copy on his personal jukebox at his Graceland home. Cilla herself 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 just as she was starting to become popular in the USA.
During 1966, Black recorded the Bacharach-David song "Alfie", inspired by the film, Alfie. While the song was not included on the UK film version, Cher sang "Alfie" on the closing credits of the US version. Alfie went on to become a success for Dionne Warwick in the States and it was a major success for Black in the UK, scoring #9 on the British charts. Cilla's version of "Alfie" was arranged and conducted by Bacharach himself at the recording session at Abbey Road. Bacharach insisted on several takes, and Black cited the Alfie recording 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 guested on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Not Only... But Also, appeared in a Ray Galton-Alan Simpson revue in London's West End — Way Out In Piccadilly — alongside Frankie Howerd, made notable appearances on The Eamonn Andrews Show, and starred in her own television special (the first of its kind to be shown in colour), Cilla at the Savoy.
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 and a leading role alongside David Warner in the 1968 psychedelic comedy Work Is a Four-Letter Word were largely ignored by film critics. In a 1997 interview with Record Collector magazine, Black revealed she was asked to appear in the 1969 film The Italian Job, playing the part of Michael Caine's girlfriend, but negotiations fell through between producers and her management over her fee.
Brian Epstein died of an accidental drug overdose during August 1967, after negotiating a contract with the BBC for his only female artist to appear in a series of her own. Relations between Epstein and Black had somewhat soured during the year prior to his death, due largely to the fact that Epstein was not paying her enough attention, and due partly to his public admission that he had taken LSD. In her autobiography, Cilla claims that Epstein had tried to pacify her by negotiating a deal that would see her representing the UK in the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest.
However, 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 improbable.
After the death of Epstein, her boyfriend and songwriter Bobby Willis assumed management duties. Further recording successes followed: Conversations, Surround Yourself With Sorrow, If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind (all 1969), Something Tells Me (Somethings Gonna Happen Tonight) (1971) and Baby We Can't Go Wrong (1974).
The Beatles association continued. At a Cannes Film Festival during the 1970s, Cilla joined George Harrison, Ringo Starr and popular music star Marc Bolan to attend a screening of the John Lennon-Yoko Ono experimental film Erection. She also holidayed with them on a trip aboard a yacht chartered by Ringo. Photograph was written on this trip — originally intended for Black to record — but Starr decided to record it himself. George Harrison also wrote two songs for Cilla: 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 re-surfaced on a retrospective collection entitled Cilla: The Best of 1963-78.
She shows an increasing reluctance to sing nowadays, though there have been two returns to the recording studio in recent times; during 1993 Black released Through the Years, an album of new material featuring a number of duets with Dusty Springfield, Cliff Richard, and Barry Manilow.
Cilla Black outsold all other female recording artists in Britain during the 1960s. She has released 15 studio albums and 37 singles (many of which have charted world-wide).
During 2006–2007, Cilla'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 Christmas/New Year pantomime season, Cilla Black returned to live musical performance in the pantomime "Cinderella", appearing as the Fairy Godmother. Cilla was part of an all Scouse cast assembled in this 3-hour stage spectacular to mark the end of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture. The show incorporated a number of Cilla's successes, which she performed live, including "You're My World", "Something Tells Me (Something's Gonna Happen Tonight)", "Step Inside Love" and "Sing A Rainbow". Cilla received rave reviews for her singing and overall performance It is not clear if/when Cilla will sing live again but her performance in this stage show demonstrated that she still has a commanding voice and stage presence and a large audience to make it worth her while should she ever desire to return to the concert stage.
On the 7th September 2009, a total of 13 original studio albums (the first seven produced by Sir George Martin) recorded by Cilla between 1963 and 2003 will be released for download. These albums are all digitally re-mastered and feature an array of musical genres from pop, jazz, R&B, show tunes, sixties power-ballads, gospel and disco. Also released that same day by EMI is a 2CD/DVD set entitled ‘The Definitive Collection (A Life In Music)’ featuring a DVD of 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 (Something’s Gonna Happen Tonight)".
Cilla was offered her own show on the BBC by Bill Cotton, then Assistant Head of Light Entertainment. The first series of Cilla was broadcast on Tuesday 30 January 1968. On the first show her guest was Tom Jones. The two popular music stars sang a duet together. Paul McCartney (without Lennon) wrote the theme tune - another chart success for Black - entitled "Step Inside Love". This song was later covered by Madeline Bell. Henry Mancini, Ringo Starr, Donovan, Georgie Fame and Dusty Springfield were among the artistes who appeared in the earlier series of Cilla, however many programmes were later wiped. Her BBC show was relatively successful and paved the way for a lengthy television career which continued intermittently until 2003.
Like so many of her contemporaries, during the 1970s her musical career declined, although she toured often. Increasingly thought of as a television "personality", she found herself experimenting with situation comedy for ITV. Her BBC series, Cilla, continued however successfully until 1976, recessing during 1970, 1972 and 1975. The theme songs from the Cilla series were also successful. "Step Inside Love" opened the series in both the 1968 and 1969 runs and reached number 8 in the UK singles chart on its release. Something Tells Me (Something's Gonna Happen Tonight) was the theme for the 1971 and 1973 shows, reaching number 3 and becoming Cilla's last top ten success. "Baby, We Can't Go Wrong" was used for the 1974 series and was a minor success, reaching number 36, Cilla's last UK chart siong until 1993. "It's Now" was the final theme from the 1976 series and failed to reach the charts, albeit released as a "B" side.
The UK's Eurovision Song Contest entry selection process was part of the Cilla show in both 1968 and 1973, when her close friend Cliff Richard was the featured artist performing all the songs shortlisted in the A Song For Europe segment. Cilla herself was originally asked to sing for the UK in 1968 and was asked again for the 1970 contest, but declined; she was pregnant at the time.
On the 15 January 1975, Cilla performed as main entertainer of the first of six half-hour situation comedy plays. The series which was broadcast on ITV was entitled Cilla's Comedy Six and written by Ronnie Taylor. During May 1975, the Writer's Guild of Great Britain named Cilla 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 best scoring three shows of the week. During August 1976, Cilla 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".
By the beginning of the 1980s, Cilla Black was performing mainly in cabaret and concert, and had been absent from television since a Thames Television special during 1978. During 1983 she appeared on the BBC's Wogan programme. Her appearance on this peak-time talk show was a major success, and her career in television was resurrected.
She signed a contract with London Weekend Television, which resulted in her 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 gameshow The Moment of Truth, which was initiated during 1998 but was less successful and was terminated during 2001. All programmes were mainstream ratings winners and consolidated her position as the best paid female performer on British television.
Her TV appearances have made her spoken mannerisms ("Lorra lorra laughs" for example) and her habit of referring familiarly to her fellow presenters ("Our Graham") well known.
Notable television performances since her resignation from LWT have included Parkinson, So Graham Norton, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Room 101 and Cilla Live! for Living TV. Black was a judge on the first series of the Reality TV series Soapstar Superstar, has featured in an episode of the series Eating with... and has recently guest presented editions of The Paul O'Grady Show and The Friday Night Project for Channel 4.
Cilla Black filmed a pilot dating show for Sky One during 2008. The project referred to as Loveland was to be a ten-part "21st century" dating programme for the channel for the next year. Unlike on Blind Date, which Black hosted for 18 years, contestants would not sit in front of a studio audience but would be 'hidden' behind real-time animations as they date each other. Each episode concludes with the contestant picking their preferred animated character before meeting that person in real life. Production costs for the innovative pilot proved however too costly and it was terminated.
She attended St. Anthony's School, which was behind St. Anthony's Church in Scotland Road, and Anfield Commercial College.
She was married to her manager Bobby Willis for more than 30 years until his death from lung cancer on 23 October 1999. They had three sons, Robert (now her manager, born in 1970), Ben (born in 1974), and Jack (born in 1980).
On 4 August 2004, Black became a grandmother for the first time when her eldest son, Robert, and his wife, Fiona, had their first child, Max. Her second grandchild, Alana, was born on 6 February 2007.
Black has previously been a keen supporter of the British Conservative Party. During 1992 she made prominent calls for the party's re-election
John William Tuohy The wonderful Cilla Black