As an American teenager, I first became aware of Cilla Black as a footnote to my all-encompassing Beatles education. When I got to college, long before the age of YouTube, let alone home computing and the Internet, I met a friend who owned the single of whatever song Paul McCartney threw her way. I remember it boring me, and I never heard another lick of Cilla Black until this week, when in London on vacation with my family and news broke that “Cilla,” as she’s known here, had died.
I had no idea she was so beloved in her home country. It was THE story on the news. There was some telemovie on her life that must have been made a few years ago that’s been running nonstop. In the pantheon of chubby-cheeked English singers, I figured she was a 1-hit wonder, nowhere near as beloved as likes of Lulu, Alison Moyet, the strawberry-blond Spice Girl, and all those other British women pop stars who run together in my mind, despite whatever decade in which they briefly burned brightest. Are the British more sentimental than I thought, or was Cilla Black really a relevant star beyond her footnote status in Beatles biographies?
She was a great…woman!
The first Paul McCartney song that was given to Cilla Black was one of the Beatles’ 1962 Decca audition songs called “Love of the Loved” (is that a hokey title or what?). Here’s what it sounded like with the Beatles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwlcTIiJfWk
Cilla’s version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNYPHz8pYs0
Hey, Mod, not to get ahead of ourselves, but the day is going to come when, as it must to all men, death will come to Cliff Richard. Just to warn you: it’s crazy, but he’s not just a two hit wonder from the 70s! “Devil Woman” and “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” sure, but turns out he’s been freakin’ huge across the pond since, like, forever! He has even–get this–been knighted! I kid you not. Just thought you oughtta know.
(“Relevant,” though? That’s a whole different question.)
After the hits (11 UK Top 10) dried up “Our Cilla” hosted 2 very popular Saturday evening TV shows. “Blind Date” was a copy of “The Dating Game”, the other one was even worse. Back then there were only 4 TV channels & she became more widely famous than in her singing days.
Yeah we are a sentimental bunch. Yesterday George Cole, a star of the “St Trinian’s” movies & a big TV show “Minder”, passed. He wa great but you die & you become an instant national treasure.
She was beloved in England, but the focus on her the past few days seems symptomatic of how England operates in general. It’s a more unified, more singular consciousness than what we have here.
They also have more of an investment in their pop cultural past than we do.
Thanks for the details, and great hearing from you again!
Like most Americans I never heard much of her music. I’ve Been Wrong Before, a great Randy Newman song that was one of her hits, was covered by Elvis Costello on Kojak Variety.
Here’s a poem by Friend of the Hall Martin Newell in honor of Cilla:
What do you know, diskojoe? Thanks for spotting that.