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!