We take a look at our favourite Cilla Black photos, celebrating the Liverpudlian lass treasured by a nation
From marriage and motherhood to matchmaking, the singer turned TV personality won us all over and fast became ‘our Cilla’.
1. Born Priscilla Maria Veronica White, ‘our Cilla’ grew up in Liverpool working the cloakroom at the famous Cavern club in the early sixties where she would hang out with the likes of the Beatles.
Paul McCartney remembers, ‘She was a lovely girl who infected everyone with her great spirit […] she always had a fun-loving dignity that made her a great pleasure to be around. She had a fine distinctive voice and was always a bit of a laugh. It was a privilege to know and love her.’
2. Life long friend, choreographer and TV personality Lionel Blair shows Cilla and pals the tricks of the entertainment trade with a simple dance routine. After all, you can’t have a song without a dance!
But it seems Cilla’s early talents lay predominantly with music. In one of her first forays into performing on television, she reminisced, ‘I had no sense of where the cameras were and danced right past them leaving the screen empty!’
Little did she know that she’d one day become the face of the nation’s favourite matchmaking TV show.
3. Cilla had a cohort of showbiz friends including Cliff Richard, here snapped counting votes together for A Song For Europe.
‘I will always think of her as outrageous, funny, incredibly gifted but above all full of heart […],’ said Cliff after hearing the shocking news about Cilla’s death. ‘She was a very special person, and I have lost a very wonderful friend, I will miss her dearly. God bless her’.
4. Bobby Willis was the love of Cilla’s life, as well as her manager, and the pair got married in 1969.
Speaking about the early days of their relationship, Cilla said they ‘had terrible arguments’.
‘The rows were always about stupid things, really, to do with work,’ she recalled. ‘Not other men, because he never left me alone. I was never, ever allowed to go out alone. We always went out as a couple.’
5. Along with the fame, Cilla had always wanted a large family.
As a child she recalled: ‘I used to pinch babies. Everyone knew it was Cilla, dreaming of motherhood, who had trotted off with prams left outside for an instant.’
In 1970 Cilla’s dreams came true as she and Bobby were blessed with their first son Robert, followed by Ben in 1974, daughter Ellen in 1975 who sadly passed away within hours and Jack in 1980. Cilla told the Mail, ‘I remember thinking: ‘To hell with the singing, I want a family [and] when our first son, Robert was born I remember Bobby saying: “This is it. It’s complete.” And it was.’
6. A decade later and Cilla was back on our TV screens, hosting Blind Date from 1985 to 2003 . Cilla spoke to Radio Times about the transition from singing to television as ‘a doddle’.
‘Though I was only as good as the researchers and the three people they presented me with,’ she insisted. ‘I tried never to take anything for granted.’
7. Never one to shy away from the limelight and give her audiences ‘a lorra lorra laughs’, Cilla was always willing to get involved with a good cause. Here she is stepping out on Naomi Campbell’s Fashion for Relief catwalk in Yves St Laurent top hat and tails.
8. After the death of husband Bobby in 1999, after 30 years of married life together, Cilla was keen to support International Widow’s Day along with Loomba Foundation president Cherie Booth.
Life without Bobby was hard at first for Cilla, ‘I’d never done anything on my own. I remember flying to Barbados and it was the first time I’d been without Bobby. In the taxi to my little apartment I thought, “Oh, if I run back now I can make the flight home.”
‘I was dreading going in without him. But a little voice told me – maybe it was coming from Bobby – “no, you’ve got to do it.” And I’m glad I did. Because that was the beginning of me travelling and going to places on my own.’
9. Sporting a spectacular hat at Ascot in 2008, we are reminded of a candid interview the 20-year old singer gave in 1964 to the Liverpool Echo. ‘I never wear hats, spoils me hair. I worry about me hair sometimes on telly. All hair, no face.’ But Cilla changed her mind about adorning that brilliant auburn bob!
10. Cilla finally received recognition for her long-standing showbiz career when she was awarded a Special BAFTA award in 2014. With half a century in the entertainment industry, the accolade was well deserved but Cilla remained modest.
‘I think they’re giving it to me just for being alive,’ she quipped to the Mirror. ‘They usually wait until you die before they give an award like this. But I’ve done 50 years in showbiz! I don’t know where the time has gone. Really, I don’t!’
11. Known as Liverpool’s Cinderella, Cilla went from rags to riches in true fairytale style. She had the romance, the fame and stole the hearts of all who met her. ‘I always wanted to be a star,’ Cilla said, and what a star she was.