PRISCILLA MARIA VERONICA WHITE OBE (27 May 1943 – 1 August 2015), known by her stage name CILLA BLACK, was an English singer, television presenter, actress, and author.
Championed by her friends the Beatles , she began her career as a singer in 1963, and her singles "Anyone Who Had a Heart " and "You\'re My World " both reached number one in the UK in 1964. Black had eleven Top Ten hits on the British charts between then and 1971; and an additional 8 hits that made the top 40. In May 2010, new research published by BBC Radio 2 showed that her version of "Anyone Who Had a Heart" was the UK's biggest selling single by a female artist in the 1960s. "You're My World" was also a modest hit in the US, peaking at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 .
Along with a successful recording career in the 1960s and early 1970s, Black hosted her own variety show, Cilla , for the BBC between 1968 and 1976. After a brief time as a comedy actress in the mid-1970s, she became a prominent television presenter in the 1980s and 1990s, hosting hit entertainment shows such as Blind Date (1985–2003), The Moment of Truth (1998–2001) and Surprise Surprise (1984–2001).
In 2013, Black celebrated her 50 years in show business. British television network ITV honoured this milestone with a one-off entertainment special which aired on 16 October 2013. The show, called The One it was her first number one album.
* 1 Early life
* 2 Music career
* 2.1 Before August 1967 * 2.2 After Epstein * 2.3 Later music career
* 3 Television career
* 4 TV biopic * 5 Personal life * 6 Death * 7 Discography * 8 Selected TV credits * 9 Awards and honors
* 10 Books
* 10.1 Autobiographies
* 11 References * 12 External links
Priscilla Maria Veronica White was born in Liverpool , England, on 27 May 1943 and grew up in the Scotland Road area of the city. Her parents were John Patrick White (1904–1971) and Priscilla Blythen (1911–1996). She had a Welsh grandfather, Joseph Henry Blythen (1883–1966), who was born in Wrexham , and Irish great-grandparents on both her father's and mother's sides of the family. She was raised in a Roman Catholic household, and attended St. Anthony's School, situated behind St. Anthony's Church in Scotland Road, and Anfield Commercial College, where she learned office skills.
Determined to become an entertainer, Cilla White gained a part-time job as a cloakroom attendant at Liverpool's Cavern Club , best known for its connection with the Beatles . Her impromptu performances impressed the Beatles and others. She was encouraged to begin singing by a Liverpool promoter, Sam Leach, who booked her first gig at the Casanova Club, on London Road, where she appeared as "Swinging Cilla". She became a guest singer with the Merseybeat bands Rory Storm and the Hurricanes , Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes and, later, with the Big Three . Meanwhile, she worked as a waitress at the Zodiac coffee lounge, where she later met her future husband Bobby Willis . She was featured in an article in the first edition of the local music newspaper Mersey Beat by the paper's publisher, Bill Harry , who mistakenly referred to her as Cilla Black, rather than her real surname, White. She then took the name Black as part of her stage name.
BEFORE AUGUST 1967
Black signed her first contract with long-time friend and neighbour, Terry McCann, but this contract was never honoured as it was made when she was under age (the age of majority was then 21) and her father subsequently signed her with Brian Epstein .
She was introduced to Epstein by John Lennon , who persuaded him to audition her. John was encouraged by his Aunt Mimi to introduce Cilla to Epstein. Epstein had a portfolio of local artists but initially showed little interest in her. Her first audition was a failure, partly because of nerves, and partly because the Beatles (who supported her) played the songs in their usual vocal key rather than re-pitching them for Black's voice.
In her autobiography What's It All About? she wrote:
I'd chosen to do "Summertime", but at the very last moment I wished I hadn't. I adored this song, and had sung it when I came to Birkenhead with the Big Three, but I hadn't rehearsed it with the Beatles and it had just occurred to me that they would play it in the wrong key. It was too late for second thoughts, though. With one last wicked wink at me, John set the group off playing. I'd been right to worry. The music was not in my key and any adjustments that the boys were now trying to make were too late to save me. My voice sounded awful. Destroyed—and wanting to die—I struggled on to the end.
But after seeing her another day, at the Blue Angel jazz club , Epstein contracted with Black as his only female client on 6 September 1963. Epstein introduced Black to George Martin who signed her to Parlophone Records and produced her début single, "Love of the Loved " (written by Lennon and McCartney ), which was released only three weeks after she joined Epstein. Despite an appearance on ABC Television\'s popular Thank Your Lucky Stars , the single peaked at a modest No. 35 in the UK, a relative failure compared to the débuts of Epstein's most successful artists (the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer the Rolling Stones ' manager Andrew Loog Oldham took out an advert in the Melody Maker to deride Cilla's efforts compared with the original.
Being so closely associated with the Beatles, Black became one of a select group of artists in the 1964–65 period (the others being Billy J. Kramer a digital download album of specially commissioned re-mixes Cilla All Mixed Up ; a remixed single on digital download of "Something Tells Me".
In October 2013, Parlophone (the record label which launched her career in 1963) released the career-spanning CD The Very Best of Cilla Black —containing all 19 of her UK Top 40 singles, new club remixes plus a bonus DVD of her 1966 TV music special Cilla at the Savoy.
Black was the best-selling British female recording artist in the UK during the 1960s, releasing a total of 15 studio albums and 37 singles.
CILLA ( BBC TV SERIES)
Main article: Cilla (TV series)
On 15 January 1975 Black performed as the main entertainer of the first of six half-hour situation comedy plays. The series, broadcast by ITV , was entitled Cilla's Comedy Six and was written by Ronnie Taylor . During May 1975 the Writers\' Guild of Great Britain named Black as Britain's Top Female Comedy Star. The following year, ATV was commissioned to film six more plays as the initial series had accrued healthy viewing figures and remained constantly among the highest-scoring three shows of the week. During August 1976 Black reprised her role as a comedy actress in Cilla's World of Comedy which featured her theme song and new single "Easy in Your Company".
Between 2013 and 2014 Black was set to co-star in a new BBC sitcom Led Astray, alongside Paul O\'Grady - the pilot episode was recorded on 31 October 2013. However the show was shelved when the pair were unable to cope with the long hours of filming.
By the beginning of the 1980s Black was performing mainly in cabaret and concerts; television appearances were rare. According to Christopher Biggins\'s autobiography she "stormed back into the public consciousness with a barnstorming performance as a guest on Wogan in 1983, proving that we can all have second chances" and after her appearance, people were "desperately trying to find her the right comeback vehicle". Cilla presented Cilla Black's Christmas (1983), performing a comedy-duet with Frankie Howerd .
Black signed a contract with London Weekend Television , becoming the host of two of the most popular and long-running evening entertainment shows of the 1980s and 1990s—Blind Date (1985–2003) and Surprise Surprise (1984–2001). She also presented the game show The Moment of Truth (1998–2001). All programmes were mainstream ratings winners and consolidated her position as the highest-paid female performer on British television.
Her TV appearances made her spoken mannerisms ("Lorra lorra laughs", for example) and her habit of referring familiarly to her fellow presenters ("Our Graham") well known.
LATER TELEVISION WORK
Black's most notable television performances after her resignation from LWT included Parkinson , So Graham Norton , Friday Night with Jonathan Ross , Room 101 twice (once with Paul Merton and once with the current host, Frank Skinner ), and a one off show titled Cilla Live! for Living TV . Black was a judge on the first series of the reality TV series Soapstar Superstar , featured in an episode of the series Eating with... and guest presented editions of The Paul O\'Grady Show in 2006 and The Friday Night Project for Channel 4 in 2007.
In 2008 Black recorded a pilot for the Sky 1 dating show Loveland. The show was to be a ten-part "21st century" dating programme for the following year. Unlike Blind Date, contestants would not sit in front of a studio audience, but would be 'hidden' behind real-time animations as they dated each other. Each episode would conclude with the contestant picking their preferred animated character before meeting the real-life person. Production costs, however, were too high and the show was pulled.
Between September 2010 and June 2011 she made guest panel list appearances and in 2011 also appeared, as herself, in the first episode of series 4 of ITV's Benidorm .
50 YEARS IN SHOWBUSINESS
ITV honoured Black's 50 years in show business with a one-off entertainment special which aired on 16 October 2013. The show, called The One and Only Cilla Black , starred Black alongside Paul O'Grady, who hosted the show. The show celebrated Black's career and included a special trip back to Black's home city of Liverpool, a host of celebrity friends and some surprise music guests. Black paid homage to Blind Date with the return of its most popular contestants and saw her star in a special edition of Coronation Street .
Main article: Cilla
In 2014, Black was the subject of a three-part television drama series, Cilla , focusing especially on her rise to fame in 1960s Liverpool and her relationship with Bobby Willis . ITV aired the first instalment on 15 September 2014, starring BAFTA award-winning actress Sheridan Smith .
Black was married to her manager, Bobby Willis , for 30 years from 1969 until he died from lung cancer on 23 October 1999. They had three sons: Robert (born 1970, who became her manager), Ben (born 1974) and Jack (born 1980). Their daughter, Ellen (born 1975), was born prematurely and suffered lung complications, living for only two hours.
Black was at one time a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party and publicly voiced her admiration of Margaret Thatcher , stating in 1993 that Thatcher had "put the 'great' back into Great Britain". In April 1992 she appeared on stage at a Conservative Party rally and made prominent calls for the party's re-election under the leadership of John Major . However, in a 2004 interview with The Guardian , Black claimed that she was "apolitical". The Liverpool Echo also quoted her as saying: "as for the politics thing, I'm not a Conservative."
In August 2014, Black was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue .
Black died at her holiday home near Estepona , Spain, on 1 August 2015, at the age of 72. A spokesperson for the High Court of Justice in Andalusía suggested that an accident may have been a contributing factor in Black's death. Following the results of a post-mortem examination , her sons confirmed that Black had died from a stroke following a fall in her Spanish villa.
A ten-page pathologist's report confirmed that Black had suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage after falling backwards and hitting her head, it was thought, on a terrace wall. It was believed she had not been found for at least four hours.
In 2014, she had stated that she wanted to die when she reached 75, as her mother, who suffered from progressive osteoporosis , had lived to 84 and her final years were difficult. According to a friend, she had recently said that she was approaching death, complaining of failing eyesight and hearing as well as arthritis . Black had been suffering with rheumatoid arthritis for years and was in "considerable agony" towards the end of her life.
In the days following her death, a book of condolence was opened at the Liverpool Town Hall . UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated, " Cilla Black was a huge talent who made a significant contribution to public life in Britain. My thoughts are with her family." Paul McCartney , Ringo Starr , Sheridan Smith , Holly Johnson , Cliff Richard and Paul O\'Grady were among friends and colleagues in the entertainment industry who expressed their sorrow at Black's death. Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck , who had been a friend for decades, said, "She was the girl next door that everybody loved and would have loved as a daughter, a daughter-in-law." Songwriter Burt Bacharach said, "It will always be a most special memory for me of recording her on Alfie in Abbey Road Studios in 1965." Broadcaster Noel Edmonds said that she "captured the hearts of the British people" because "she was our Cilla - there were no airs and graces".
Black's funeral service was held on 20 August 2015 at St Mary\'s Church, Woolton . Tom Williams , the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool, led the service; Cliff Richard sang at the service and Paul O'Grady gave a eulogy. Spoken tributes, prayers and readings were made by Black's sons Ben and Robert, Jimmy Tarbuck and Christopher Biggins. The Beatles ' song " The Long and Winding Road " was played as the coffin left the church. She was buried in a private ceremony at Allerton Cemetery in Allerton on the same day.
On 21 August 2015, the day after her funeral, The Very Best of Cilla Black , a compilation album of her hit songs, went to number one on the UK Albums Chart . It was Black's first number one album.
Main article: Cilla Black discography
SELECTED TV CREDITS
YEAR PROGRAMME ROLE
1966 Cilla at the Savoy presenter
1968–1976 Cilla presenter
1975 Cilla's Comedy Six actor
1976 Cilla's World of Comedy actor
1983 Cilla's Christmas Show presenter
1984–2001 Surprise Surprise presenter
1985–2003 Blind Date presenter
1993 Cilla's Celebrations special guest/presenter
1998–2001 The Moment of Truth presenter
2006 Soapstar Superstar judge
2006–2010 The Paul O\'Grady Show guest presenter and guest
2007 The Sunday Night Project guest presenter
2007, 2013 Room 101 guest
2009 TV's Greatest Endings presenter
2009–14 Loose Women regular/guest panellist
2012 Cilla's Unswung Sixties presenter
2011 Benidorm herself
2011 Never Mind the Buzzcocks guest presenter
2013 Your Face Sounds Familiar guest judge
The One ISBN 0-460-04695-0 * What's It All About? (2003), London: Ebury Press ; ISBN 0-09-189036-5
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