Sunday, 2 August 2015

ANYONE WHO HAD A HEART: RIP CILLA BLACK

She strongly denied that she was ever the hat-check girl at Liverpool's sweaty little dungeon otherwise known as the Cavern Club. George Martin, no less, has always agreed with her. Whether she was or whether she wasn't, she was in the right place at the right time. Brian Epstein introduced her to the producer, and left him with the problem of what to do with, as George described it, 'her thin, rock-and-roll screecher of a voice, with its piercing nasal sound.' Finding songs for her, he feared, was going to be a tall order.

Yet find them they did. The Beatles' 'Love of the Loved', which flopped. Burt Bacharach's and Hal David's 'Anyone Who Had a Heart', which scored her a bull's eye and infuriated Dionne Warwick, whose version fell short. 'You're My World', originally recorded in Italian by Umberto Bindi, clinched it. 'Alfie', another Bacharach/David gem, was the icing. Cilla has been a star ever since.

She's gone now. I hadn't seen her since the Nordoff Robbins Silver Clef lunch in London in 2010, at which she presented an award. We invited her to join the Vintage TV crew as regular star presenter. She was keen. Her manager son Robert wasn't (he knew more than we did: for now, we won't go there.) In keeping with the 'vintage' theme, we talked a little about old age, then, and she admitted that she was finding personal deterioration the biggest challenge of her life - more of a struggle, even, than overcoming the unimaginable grief that consumed her following the death of her beloved husband Bobby in 1999. She didn't want to live to a ripe old age and suffer a monstrously painful death like her mother, she said. She'd always thought that 75 was a 'respectable age to go.'

You fell three years short, dear Cilla. So keep singing, yeah? Knowing we loved you so.


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