Cilla Black

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Cilla Black, in a still from an interview done in 2000.

Cilla Black (born Priscilla Maria Veronica White on May 27, 1943) is a British singer and entertainer, and was the second-biggest star to emerge from the Liverpool scene after the Beatles.

A naturally gifted singer, as a child Cilla was encouraged to sing by her family. In the early 1960s, determined to break into show business, she got a part-time job as a cloakroom attendant at the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool, where the Beatles regularly played. Ideally placed to promote herself to local musicians, she impressed The Beatles and others with her talent and began her stage career with impromptu performances at the Cavern. During this period she also worked as waitress at the Zodiac coffee lounge, where she met her future husband and manager Bobby Willis.

She became close friends with the Beatles and after their breakthrough to international success in 1963, their manager Brian Epstein took over the management of a number of other musicians from Liverpool. Although her first name was often shortened to "Cilla", her stage name came about by accident when local music paper Mersey Beat misprinted her name as Cilla Black, but she liked the sound and decided to use it professionally.

Cilla was introduced to Epstein by John Lennon who persuaded him to audition her. The first audition was not successful, partly because of nerves, and partly because the Beatles (who backed her) played the songs in their vocal key rather than re-pitching them for Cilla's voice. But after seeing her again at the Blue Angel jazz club, Epstein signed Cilla up as his only female client on September 6, 1963.

Epstein signed Cilla to Parlophone records and introduced her to George Martin, who produced her debut single, "Love of the Loved" (written for her by Lennon and McCartney), which was released only three weeks after she signed with Epstein. The single peaked at a modest #35, making it a failure, relatively speaking, compared to most of Epstein's other artists.

Her second single was the Burt Bacharach-Hal David composition "Anyone Who Had a Heart". It had already been a hit for Dionne Warwick but Cilla's 1964 version shot to #1 in Britain and became the biggest selling single by a female artist in the history of British popular music. It launched her on an extraordinarily successful pop career and she went on to score twenty consecutive Top 40 hits on the British single and EP charts, including eleven British Top Ten singles and two consecutive #1 singles in 1964.

Her next single and her second #1 hit, You're My World, was an English version of the Italian popular song Il Mio Mondo. It is one of the best-remembered songs of her career and also gave Cilla her first major chart success in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. The other song most often associated with her is the Bacharach-David song Alfie, the theme from the Michael Caine film of the same name. Produced by the notoriously perfectionistic Burt Bacharach and recorded at Abbey Road Studios, Cilla cited the Alfie recording session as one of the most demanding of her pop career.

Frequently using songs composed by close friend Paul McCartney -- including her 1968 hit Step Inside Love -- Cilla's chart success continued until the end of the Sixties. She branched into acting with 1964's Ferry Cross the Mersey, which also featured another member of Epstein's management stable, Gerry & The Pacemakers. Epstein remained her manager after dropping most of his other acts, but she decided to leave him in 1966 for Robert Stigwood; before she could, however, Epstein died of a drug overdose. After Epstein's death and a disastrous appearance in the flop film Work Is a Four-Letter Word, Black's pop career began to decline. Her last Top Ten hit was "Something Tells Me" in 1971. Black continued recording and became a popular TV personality in the 1970s, hosting her own long-running variety series, and her TV work began to eclipse her musical fame. She hosted the popular television programme Blind Date (1985 - 2003), Surprise, Surprise (1984 - 1999) and Moment of Truth (1998 - 2001). She remains an extremely popular personality in the UK. In 1993 she was awarded an OBE. In 2003 she released a music career retrospective New Beginnings.

She was married to her manager Bobby Willis for over 30 years until his death in the late 1990s. They had 3 sons. One of them, Robert, succeeded his father as her manager.

She is worth an estimated 15 million (2003) and she owns luxury homes in Buckinghamshire, West London, Marbella and Black


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