Cilla Black was born Priscilla Maria Veronica White on 27 May 1943. Dropping out of school at 15 she went to work pounding a typewriter in a Liverpool office which she detested. She also used to have a part-time job as a cloakroom attendant at the now legendary Cavern in Liverpool.
One night, sitting in the front row at the Iron Door Club, the group handed her a microphone and told her to belt out a song. She sang Fever while her voice trembled and her knees shook. The audience howled for an encore and word spread.
Billed as “Swinging Cilla” she guested with a number of local groups, eventually becoming fast friends with The Beatles.
In the summer of 1963, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote her a song for her first recording called Love Of The Loved. It didn’t sell and Cilla kept singing in the clubs, hoping she would be discovered.
Her big break came at the Blue Angel when she was invited to sing a number with a new group. Unbeknownst to Cilla, Brian Epstein was in the audience, and he promptly signed her up as his token female act to complete his ‘stable of stars’.
Epstein probably did not realise that after The Beatles, this tall ginger-headed girl would be the most successful of all his signings.
Cilla’s first record with Epstein was Anyone Who Had A Heart – a Burt Bacharach song originally recorded by Dionne Warwick in America. Cilla’s version featured to full effect her astonishing voice which changes tone entirely when she turns up the volume.
She quickly became known as the girl with two voices; One soft, gentle and Scouse for quiet bits, and one a real belter for the climax of the songs.
Anyone Who Had A Heart was the first British #1 by a female vocalist since Helen Shapiro at the end of 1961. Cilla Black was on her way, and Brian Epstein‘s 25% of the action was worth having. Her second #1 was You’re My World (May 1964).
By August 1967, only days before his premature death, Epstein had engineered Cilla’s switch to television. It proved to be a shrewd move as, through her own variety show for the BBC, she regularly commanded a staggering audience of 22 million.
This popularity continued over subsequent decades, with countless shows, industry awards and record-breaking viewing figures to her credit.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Cilla transitioned from pop star to family entertainer. She continued to score hits throughout Europe with songs like I Don’t Know How To Love Him (from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar) and toured to appreciative audiences worldwide.
Cilla’s success came full circle in 1997 when the Queen awarded her the OBE for her distinguished achievements as an entertainer.
In 2003, Cilla re-signed with EMI and recorded her 15th studio album, Beginnings. She also published a revealing autobiography, What’s It All About? which became a best-seller.
Cilla Black died on 1 August 2015 after she suffered a stroke following a fall in her villa in Estepona, Spain. She was 72.