Songs For Cilla
Cilla Black and The Beatles
Priscilla White was born in Liverpool, England, on May 27, 1943 and grew up in the Scotland Road area of the city.
Determined to become an entertainer, she got a part-time job as a cloakroom attendant at Liverpool's Cavern Club, best known for its association with The Beatles. Her impromptu performances impressed The Beatles and others, and she was encouraged to start singing by a Liverpool promoter, Sam Leach, who gave her her first gig at The Cassanova Club, where she appeared as "Swinging Cilla."
A young Cilla Black with Ringo and friends
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. She was also, in the meantime, a waitress at The Zodiac coffee lounge, where she was to meet her future husband Bobby Willis. She was featured in an article in the first edition of the local music newspaper Mersey Beat
, and the paper's publisher, Bill Harry, mistakenly referred to her as Cilla Black, rather than White. She decided she liked the name, and took it as a stage name.
John Lennon introduced her to Brian Epstein, The Beatles' manager, and he persuaded Epstein to audition her.
Unfortunately, her first audition was a failure, partly because of nerves, and partly because The Beatles (who supported her) played the songs in their vocal key rather than re-pitching them for Black's voice. In her autobiography What's It All About? she writes:
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.
Epstein changed his thoughts about Cilla after seeing her another day, at The Blue Angel jazz club. He contracted with Black as his only female client on September 6, 1963. Then he introduced her 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 contracted with Epstein.
The single peaked at a modest #35 in the UK, a relative failure compared to début releases of Epstein's most successful artists (The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas).
The Beatles also recorded a version of the song, "Love Of The Loved." Have a listen to that version:
Love Of The Loved
Cilla Black recording with Paul
Her second single, released at the beginning of 1964, was a cover of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition "Anyone Who Had A Heart
," which had been written for Dionne Warwick.
The single beat Warwick's recording into the UK charts and rose to #1 in Britain in February 1964 (spending 3 weeks there), selling 800,000 copies in the UK in the process.
Her second UK 31 success, "You're My World," was an English language rendition of the Italian popular song, "Il Mio Mondo." She also enjoyed chart success with the song in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, South Africa and Canada. Both songs sold over one million copies worldwide, and were awarded gold discs.
Black's two #1 successes were followed by the release of another Lennon–McCartney composition, "It's for You", as her fourth UK single. Paul McCartney played piano at the recording session, and the song proved to be another major international success for Black, peaking at #7 on the UK charts.
The Beatles' version:
It's For You
The final song, credited to Lennon/McCartney and provided for Cilla Black, was "Step Inside Love," which was written as the theme song to her television series, Cilla, which first aired on January 30, 1968.
The song was actually written by Paul, when he was approached to write the theme by Cilla and her series producer Michael Hurll. He recorded the original demo version at his London home, accompanying himself on guitar, which consisted of just one verse and the chorus. This version was used as the theme during the early weeks of the show, until it was decided that the song needed an additional verse, so McCartney came down to the BBC Theatre and wrote it there.
According to Hurll, the opening line of the second verse ("You look tired, love") came from McCartney's observation of Cilla looking tired from the long rehearsals for the TV show.
McCartney then added a third verse and this version was recorded as a studio demo at Chappell Studios in London on November 21, 1967, with McCartney on guitar accompanying Cilla on vocals. This demo was the basis for the single, although whereas the McCartney demos were recorded in the key of D, the final arrangement of the single version was transposed up a fifth to G, to take advantage of Cilla's higher register.
The Beatles' version was recorded during the "White Album" sessions, but the song was not included on the album:
In October 2013, Parlophone Records (the record label which launched her career in 1963) released the career-spanning CD: The Very Best Of Cilla Black (CD & DVD) — containing all 19 of Black's UK Top 40 singles, new club remixes plus a bonus DVD of her 1966 TV music special Cilla at the Savoy.
After her singing career, Cilla Black became a popular television personality in the UK, and she was best known for hosting Blind Date from 1985 to 2003. Click here for a sample of the show.
Miss Black has not officially retired but rarely makes TV appearances.
Cilla was married to her manager Bobby Willis for more than 30 years until his death from lung cancer on October 23, 1999. They had three sons: Robert (now her manager, born in 1970), Ben (born in 1974), and Jack (born in 1980).
More information about Cilla Black is avaliable at cillablack.com, and her albums and books are available from Amazon ...
Update: Sadly, Cilla Black passed away on August 2, 2015. She will be fondly remembered by her many fans all over the world.
© The Beatles On Abbey Road — Posted here on June 4, 2014.