By Harry Bedford
The World lost a star when Cilla Black sadly passed away in the Spanish resort of Marbella. Aged 72, she is believed to have died of natural causes. The ultimate girl-next-door, Cilla was as likeable as she was talented and this gave her a career in show business spanning fifty years and fan-base spanning the entire country.
Born Priscilla White in 1943 to a working-class family in Liverpool, she studied shipping management, though her passion always lay in entertaining. Cilla’s twenties collided spectacularly with the cultural earthquake that was the 1960s; starting as a hat-check girl at Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club, her charisma and talent for singing soon elevated her to guest singer along with such ‘Merseybeat’ bands as Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. This made Cilla one of the only female contemporaries of The Beatles’ early career.
As The Beatles began their ascent to music nobility and other bands from Liverpool stormed the charts, Cilla had her own success with ‘Love of the Loved’, a song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. As the sixties exploded, Cilla became the ‘it’ girl; her unique and quirky look paid huge dividends and this girl from Liverpool lapped up the success. Her career went from strength-to-strength as she recorded Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, selling over 800,000 copies. Bacharach asked for Cilla personally to record the main song ‘Alfie’ for the 1966 Michael Caine film of the same name. One of his favourite compositions, they recorded it together in London’s Abbey Road studios.
At this time Cilla was working with some of greatest names in music; Bacharach, The Beatles and not to mention The Beatles’ ingenious manager Brian Epstein, who played a big part in her career. However it was Cilla’s own manager, Bobby Willis, who won her heart and in 1969 they married. They remained married until Willis’ untimely death in 1999 due to lung cancer.
Despite her rapid rise to fame, Cilla’s greatest virtue was the way in which she stayed true to her lovable, down-to-earth persona, and this didn’t escape the BBC when in 1968 they gave her her own television show: ’Cilla’. The show continued until 1976 and by this time the sixties’ pin-up girl had evolved into a cabaret star where she would remain until the early 1980s, when London Weekend Television signed her up to, arguably, her two most famous roles: the presenter of Surprise Surprise and the following year, Blind Date. On British television screens every week, Cilla cemented her place as a national treasure. She remained the presenter of Blind Date until 2003.
Cilla Black is iconic and her career exemplifies what the 1960s were about – making heroes out of ordinary people. This down-to-earth, working-class, girl-next-door from the North of England was transformed into a pop sensation. After the 1960s, nobody was interested in an Oxbridge-educated, un-relatable bore on the television – they wanted to see and hear the cheeky girl from down the road who always brought a smile to their faces.
Cilla Black’s legacy will not be in her television show or her music, it will be her unique personality; the charisma and spark that we all found so endearing. 1960s Liverpool may have spawned four lads who changed the world but it also spawned a girl who the world loved. Cilla Black gave the world a lorra lorra laughs and will be so sadly missed.