Singer and television presenter Cilla Black has died aged 72 in Spain police from the country have announced. The Liverpool born actress best known for 1960s hits such as Alfie, Anyone Who Had a Heart and You’re My World, passed away from natural causes reports currently suggest.
Born Priscilla Maria Veronica White on the 27th May 1943, she grew up in, as her official website notes ‘one of the toughest parts of Liverpool’, it also adds that the young talent grew up in ‘a musically oriented household’ while ‘Living with her parents and three brothers, she was often encouraged to practise her innate singing talent by performing to her family.’
“It’s no wonder that I knew I wanted to be a professional singer from a very early age, because I was surrounded by music in our house. My father played the mouth organ, my mother and aunts used to sing, and it wasn’t unusual for families to get together and make their own music in the fifties.” – Cilla Black quoted on cillablack.com
In her teenage years she aimed to make a name for herself, although ultimately not quite the name she was born with. Following a school report which described her as “suitable for office work” Cilla initially found work as a cloakroom assistant in groovy clubs such as The Iron Door and The Cavern. As her official website notes, ‘She also served coffee at The Zodiac, another clubbers’ haven, where, incidentally, she met her husband-to-be, Bobby Willis. Perfectly placed amongst the up-and-coming stars of the day, she wowed them with her singing and confidently convinced the powers that be to let her share the spotlight on stage.’ She became part of the 1960s ‘Mersey Sound’ which included other performers such as Billy Fury, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Fourmost and of course The Beatles.
“Due to a twist of fate, Priscilla White, known around the Liverpool music scene as “Swinging Cilla”, almost overnight received a new stage name, when the music paper the ‘Mersey Beat’ misprinted her surname as Cilla Black, a name that she favoured and happily kept.” – CillaBlack.com
Brought to the attention of music executive Brian Epstein, manager of The Beatles, by John Lennon, her first audition for him proved unsuccessful, but a later gig saw Epstein eye her talent and sign her up. Cilla became a professional singer on 6th September 1963.
The 1960s saw Cilla enter another medium, a one which later would play a huge part in a new career – television. Guest spots on numerous shows including ATV’s Braden’s Beat and Thank Your Lucky Stars, gave viewers a chance to see there were no airs and graces with Cilla. In May 2010, new research published by BBC Radio 2 revealed that Cilla’s version of Anyone Who Had a Heart was the UK’s biggest selling single by a female artist in the 1960s.
“When I reached #1 in the charts with “You’re My World”, it made me the second British girl to ever have two successive #1 hits. I heard the good news just days before my 21st birthday. Two #1 hits in a row!” – Cilla Black speaking to cillablack.com
‘Cilla sustained her place at the forefront of the Brit-Pop music scene, with one of the most impressive starts for a British female recording artist, including 17 consecutive Top 40 triumphs on the singles charts. To put this unprecedented success into perspective, it happened during a decade when achieving a Top 20 single meant that you had to sell in excess of 100,000 copies a day in the UK alone’ her website adds.
In 1967 BBC One gave her a variety and music vehicle simply entitled Cilla. For ATV she turned to acting and comedy with Cilla’s Comedy Six and Cilla’s World Of Comedy in the mid 1970s. The decade which saw Cilla produce albums but little in the way of hit singles. By the 1980s she had taken a new direction, and while music always continued to play a part of her professional life, it was television which gave her a regular audience of up to 22 million viewers. After an appearance on BBC One’s Terry Wogan chat show Cilla was lured back to a regular series for ITV, the first major return to British screens since 1976. London Weekend Television gave her the chance to make dreams come true and reunite long lost relatives in the long running Surprise! Surprise! series. It would ultimately run until 2001, and recently was revived by ITV with Holly Willoughby as host. She described Black today as “one incredible lady”
A second long running format would launch with Cilla as the host in 1985 – Blind Date. Airing until 2003 the series which tried to make love matches with random strangers proved to be one of ITV’s most successful Saturday night shows. After her self-induced departure from ITV screens after twenty regular years Cilla popped up as guest host on several programmes including Living TV special Cilla Live, The 50 Greatest TV Endings for Sky 1 and a regular panellist and host on ITV’s Loose Women from 2008 until last year as well as numerous guest spots ranging from Through The Keyhole with Keith Lemon to a cameo in sitcom Benidorm and a charity special of Coronation Street.
In September 2013, Cilla Black OBE celebrated her 50th year in the entertainment business which was marked with an ITV special The One and Only Cilla Black, the channel followed it up with a drama on the performer’s life as well as new music compilation release The Very Best Of Cilla Black and both ATV series released on DVD.
The BBC reported this afternoon that Police in Malaga confirmed a woman named Priscilla White had died in Estepona in the Costa del Sol region. This later confirmed by Black’s agent Nick Fiveash.
“It is with deep sorrow that I confirm… the passing of singer and TV personality Cilla Black,Details of her death will be announced following the coroner’s report. Her family have asked for their privacy to be respected at this time.” – agent, Nick Fiveash
Priscilla Maria Veronica Willis (nee White) OBE 1943 – 2015