In England, at least, where she was big enough to inspire a television miniseries last year, she must have seemed very much a matter of right place, right time: Liverpool, 1964, discovered and managed by Brian Epstein.

Easy math then.

But, in a sense, she was both in time and out of time, charmed and cursed in equal measure, a big-voiced ballad singer who came along at the very moment the Beatles’ long shadow made that style a harder slog than it had literally been the day before.

No, she wasn’t quite Dusty Springfield or Dionne Warwick or Lulu or Shirley Bassey. But that just shows how deep the bench was once upon a time. And I’ll just say, I’ve been doing this for a few years, and, in searching around YouTube for an appropriate clip or two, every one I opened had an outpouring of affection on a level I’ve never encountered researching anyone else who just passed.

She had real talent, then, but I suspect the depth of that affection has less to do with that than a sense she was one with an audience who had grown up suspecting no one famous would ever be one with them.

So, you know, a rock and roller after all.


  1. DDJ

    Thanks for calling attention to Cilla Black’s passing; I might have missed it otherwise.

    One of the nasty byproducts of the British Invasion of 1964 was that it was almost exclusively an invasion by British groups, and for some reason it almost seemed to have excluded solo singers.

    Cilla’s big hit here was “You’re My World,” which was not the time of ballad that usually went over well in the States. Nonetheless, had the perennially under-appreciated Petula Clark not come along a few months later with “Downtown,” Black’s records might have received more attention as the token British female pop star of the ’60s.

    But for three years (1964-66), Cilla was probably the biggest female solo pop star in the UK and we Yanks missed out on a bunch of great singles that should have had more impact on the radio and the charts.

    Note that this applies to male singers also: excepting Donovan (a group all by his lonesome), there were no really consistently BIG British male singers on American charts during 1964-68. Even Tom Jones, who had a string of Top 20 hits in the UK, couldn’t really find a place at the top of the American charts until he got his own television show in 1969.

    Adieu, Ms. Cilla Back, and thanks for the musical moments.


    PS: Why didn’t Capitol follow up the Top 40 success of “You’re My Wold” with an LP of the same title for the American Christmas market of 1964?

  2. PS2: In Northeastern Pennsylvania, I don’t remember “You’re My World” being played on WARM (“the mighty 590”) more than a few times in ’64, and I was a Top 40 junky who listened for obscure records . . .

  3. Hi Neal. Glad to be of service just wish it wasn’t as the too common bearer of bad news. I’ll save my deep thoughts about the British Invasion for a long post some day, but the points you make are certainly on target. I would just add that women getting pushed to the sidelines is a major theme around here and Cilla was one of the more prominent victims of the sixties’ version. The Beatles are one thing, but it’s a little bit telling that she didn’t even make it as big here as Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas! I’m not usually much of an Anglophile to say the least, but in this case, they had a better handle on it than we did….You’re probably right about Petula Clark’s success being a factor, too, though. There’s often room for one! (Dusty and Lulu don’t count because they were always white R&B singers in disguise even when they were singing ballads.)

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