Remembering Cilla Black

Growing up, the two things that I knew about Cilla Black was that she presented ‘Blind Date’ on a Saturday night (a program I wasn’t allowed to watch as a child, due to my mother’s long-held distrust of ITV) and that her real name was Cilla White.

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As I got older, and all teenage, it would have been harder to think of anyone less cool than Cilla Black. She hung out with Cliff Richard, campaigned for the Tories, and had her hair set in a perfect early-nineties bouffant. Years ago I stumbled across a forum in which BA cabin crew posted horror stories about serving Ms. Black (always ‘Ms. Black’), how she would only sit in seat 1A, only drank a particular champagne, and would make her demands known only through her PA… (although, are you even a real celebrity if cabin crew don’t have a few bad things to say about you…?)

The one thing I didn’t know Cilla Black for, really, was the thing that started her off on her career of matchmaking and terrorising cabin crew: her singing.

While her hit-making career didn’t last too long, the two chart-toppers she had in 1964 are both excellent ballads interpreted very well, by a very young woman. The first – ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ – a Bacharach & David number that stands as the highest-selling single of the 1960s by a British woman.

I love the way, in that performance, how she starts off simply, quite unspectacularly, before dropping an octave and letting loose. Then a few months later came ‘You’re My World’, an Italian melody with English lyrics. Both these hits stood out, when I wrote about them for this blog, because they stood out so much from Cilla’s contemporaries, the Merseybeat bands, and in particular her Cavern Club mates, The Beatles (who are in the audience for the performance below).

She would continue to have hits as the sixties went on, though no further number ones. I can’t claim to be the biggest expert on the later musical career of Cilla Black (and I will happily take recommendations from those who know better), but if I can choose one more video to embed, it would be her final UK Top 10, a #3 from 1971: ‘Something Tells Me (Something’s Gonna Happen Tonight)’.

Following this the hits dried up, although she kept on recording music even after reinventing herself as the 1980s/1990s go to woman for Saturday night ‘trash’ TV. (My mother’s words, not mine…) On this, the fifth anniversary of her death then, it is worth remembering that Cilla Black was, first and foremost, a lady who could hold a tune, and whose musical achievements have been slightly overshadowed by what came next.

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Cilla Black, 27th May 1943 – 1st August 2015

4 thoughts on “Remembering Cilla Black

  1. Cilla was cool and beloved by the man or woman in the street in the 60’s, down-to-earth no airs and graces, just like one of us (and I lived in Liverpool around 1966, and my grandma lived there until she died in 1989). Liverpool Lullaby is totally Cilla and totally Liverpool at that time.

    Her music was fab, I was mad on her number ones, both of them, totally loved those records, and then a bit of a gap until Alfie (another Bacharach/David song), and Step Inside Love (Paul McCartney song) as she started her TV variety show career, and a couple of big hits to bow out on – Surround Yourself With Sorrow, ballad Conversations, and then I left the country for 2 years.

    Bought her greatest hits album in 1985 and played it a lot as I discovered gems I didnt know like Lennon/McCartney’s gorgeous It’s For You and the wonderful If I Could Make You Change Your Mind. If you haven’t watched the TV series based on her 60’s life, totally worth it it captures the period perfectly!

    1. Thanks, I’ll have to check all that out, give one of her greatest hits a spin. Both her #1s were great records – 8 (at least) out of 10s. And for all that she became a bit of a caricature of herself, she had a longevity that very few celebrities can manage

  2. badfinger20 (Max)

    I’ve read when she was coming up she was down to earth. Brian Epstein got her a recording contract and she recorded with George Martin producing…

    I never knew about her later life as a tv personality…

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