Spotlight on ……
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 practise her innate singing talent by performing to the rest of her family.
“It’s no wonder that I knew I wanted to be a professional singer from a very early age, because I was surrounded by music in our house. My father played the mouth organ, my mother and aunts used to sing, and it wasn’t unusual for families to get together and make their own music in the fifties.”
During her late teens, a sheer drive to become famous made her adamant that she would not be labelled 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 Iron Door and The Cavern clubs, the latter of which was where she worked as a coat-check girl. She also served coffee at The Zodiac, another clubbers’ haven, where, incidentally, she met her husband-to-be, Bobby Willis. 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.
Thanks to a lot of support from her friends, she quickly became a mini-celebrity in her 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 the Hurricanes.
Then, due to a twist of fate, Priscilla White, known around the Liverpool music scene as ‘Swinging Cilla’, almost overnight received a new stage name, when the music paper the ‘Mersey Beat’ misprinted her surname. So, as if by magic, she became Cilla Black, a name that she favoured and happily kept.
It wasn’t long before 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’ accompaniment, who played in their own key, made the audition a flop. 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 become “...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).
Shortly afterwards, Cilla Black made her debut on the British singles charts with one of the first of many songs given to her by 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 Brian Epstein discovered on a trip to the USA. ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, a song by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, had already proved to be a massive hit for Dionne Warwick which Cilla, then a keen follower of the US Top 100, had already admired prior to it being suggested by Epstein. 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, with an English lyric, became ‘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 Cilla 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 (1963-1978).
“When I reached #1 in the charts with ‘You’re My World’, it made me the second British girl to ever have two successive #1 hits. I heard the good news just days before my 21st birthday. Two #1 hits in a row!”
During the sixties, Cilla sustained 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 17 consecutive Top 40 triumphs on the singles charts. To put this unprecedented success into perspective, it happened during a decade when achieving a Top 20 single meant that you had to sell in excess of 100,000 copies a day in the UK alone!
By August 1967, only days before his premature death, Brian Epstein had engineered Cilla's switch to television. It proved to be a shrewd career move as, through her own eponymous variety show for the BBC, she regularly commanded staggering audience figures of between 18 and 22 million until the show’s eventual demise in 1976. This immense popularity continued throughout the seventies into subsequent decades through an array of successful concert tours, situation comedies, pantomime performances, summer season shows, West End productions and prime-time entertainment shows, which have more recently included ‘Surprise!, Surprise!’ (1983-1997) and ‘Blind Date’ (1985-2003) – the latter earning Cilla an award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
In 1997, Cilla was notably honoured with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for her achievements in the entertainment industry.
In December 2008, after a 17-year absence, Cilla made a triumphant return to the stage to star in the pantomime 'Cinderella' at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool. The £2 million sell-out production brought to a close Liverpool's year as ‘European Capital of Culture’.
The Cilla Black of today, although so often heralded by the press for being “the highest paid female entertainer in British television history”, has gone on record as saying that she ultimately wishes to be remembered for her accomplishments as a popular recording artist.
On the 7 September 2009, EMI Records (UK) release a 3-disc set 'The Definitive Collection', along with a series of other titles which are a testament to that musical legacy of which Cilla is so proud. These projects include the afore-mentioned multimedia compilation set featuring all of Cilla’s chart hits as well as her very first music DVD of rare BBC performances, plus digital-download releases of all of her original EMI studio albums, a specially commissioned album of club remixes ‘Cilla All Mixed Up’ and a remixed single version of her biggest hit of the seventies ‘Something Tells Me’.
To stay up to date with news on Cilla's future EMI releases, join the mailing list @ www.cillablack.com where you'll also find a full discography, prize draw and so much more!
THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION
(A Life in Music)
Hits + Rare Singles
01. Love Of The Loved
02. Anyone Who Had A Heart
03. You're My World
04. It's For You
05. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
06. I've Been Wrong Before
07. Love's Just A Broken Heart
09. Don’t Answer Me
10. A Fool Am I
11. What Good Am I?
12. I Only Live To Love You
13. Step Inside Love
14. Where Is Tomorrow?
15. Liverpool Lullaby
16. Surround Yourself With Sorrow
18. If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind
19. Something Tells Me (Something's Gonna Happen Tonight)
20. Baby We Can't Go Wrong
21. Never Run Out (Of You)
22. He Was A Writer
23. Little Bit Of Understanding
24. (I Wanted To Call It) Off
25. Something Tells Me (Something's Gonna Happen Tonight) [Almighty Radio Edit] +
Classic Covers + Essentials
01. Goin' Out Of My Head
02. Sing A Rainbow
03. For No One
04. Work Is A Four Letter Word [Film Version]
05. Only Forever Will Do
08. On A Street Called Hope
09. For Once In My Life
10. The April Fools
11. Oh Pleasure Man
12. Your Song
14. (They Long To Be) Close To You
15. Our Brand New World
16. The World I Wish For You [2009 Mix – Without Fade] +
17. I Hate Sunday
18. I Don't Know How To Love Him [Take 2 - 2009 Mix] +
19. Oh My Love
20. The Air That I Breathe
21. Lay It All Down
23. Black Paper Roses [2009 Chicken Feed Remix] +
24. Kiss You All Over [2009 Acoustic Mix] +
25. Beautiful Goodbye [2009 Klubkidz Remix – Radio Edit] +
Cilla at the BBC: 1964-76
01. You’re My World 
02. Don’t Answer Me 
03. Step Inside Love 
04. Love’s Just A Broken Heart 
05. Where Is Tomorrow? 
06. Liverpool Lullaby 
07. The Look Of Love/Walk On By 
08. Surround Yourself With Sorrow 
09. Yesterday 
10. Goin’ Out Of My Head 
11. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ 
12. I Am Woman 
13. You’re So Vain 
14. Help Me Make It Through The Night 
15. Day By Day 
16. Alfie 
17. Baby We Can’t Go Wrong 
18. When Will I See You Again 
19. 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover 
20. If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind 
21. Imagine 
22. Something Tells Me 
23. Conversations 
24. Sing A Rainbow 
- You’re My World 
- Beautiful Goodbye [EMI Promotional Video]
- Photo Gallery
+ Bonus Track - Previously Unreleased