Born Priscilla Maria Veronica White on May 27th 1943 to an Irish catholic family, Cilla was performing as a child in talent shows, where she was often known as ‘Swinging Cilla’. After leaving school, Cilla started work in a typing pool, but also worked for a time as a cloakroom attendant at the legendary Liverpool music venue The Cavern Club.
The Beatles began to play at the iconic venue and Cilla sang with the band from time to time, although John Lennon thought it humorous to introduce her as ‘swinging Cyril’.
Her then boyfriend Bobby Willis encouraged her association with music shop owner and publicist Brian Epstein and Cilla’s recording career was soon off and running. Her father John had to sign her first recording contract as the age of majority was still 21 at that time. Cilla’s Dad had bought items from Epstein in the past and placed his trust in Epstein’s guiding of his daughters career.
After being introduced to The Beatles producer George Martin by Paul McCartney, Cilla released her debut album in 1964. Two of the tracks from the album You’re My World and Anyone Who Had a Heart both went straight to number one and Cilla Black was suddenly a huge international pop star.
After marrying Bobby the following year, more hits followed, before Cilla was given her first television series in 1968, which ran for eight years.
The first of Cilla’s two biggest television successes Surprise Surprise was launched in 1984 and the series ran for 13 years, intermeshing with Cilla’s other massive television hit Blind Date. After Bobby’s death in 1999, Cilla and the couple’s three sons pulled together and Cilla’s working life continued with a variety of stage and television appearances.
The amazingly successful life of Cilla Black was charted in a film in 2013. Actress Sheridan Smith produced a widely acclaimed performance as Cilla, which helped tell the story of a girl next door from Liverpool who remembered her roots and remained the girl next door in television-land.
Those who met her all knew that this was a tough cookie, who knew her business. Her success paved the way for other female performers to show that the combination of a secure and successful family life and a glittering career was indeed within their reach.