#1108: It’s For You by Cilla Black
In 1962 Paul McCartney and John Lennon wrote a song called “Love Of The Loved”. The song became the debut single for Cilla Black in 1963 reaching the UK Top 40 in the fall of that year. Cilla Black recorded a Burt Bacharach-Hal David song, “Anyone Who Had A Heart”, as her follow up single. It reached #1 in the UK for three weeks in February 1964. Her third single release was an English translation of the Umberto Bindi tune, “Il Mio Mondo”. Black’s English language cover was called “You’re My World”. Her fans took that song to #1 in the UK for four weeks starting in late May 1964, and to #2 in Vancouver in July ’64. In 1964 Cilla Black was the “it-girl” of pop music in the UK. The only other female recording acts to have any number one record in the UK in 1964 were Sandie Shaw and The Supremes.
Pricilla White was born in 1943 in Liverpool. Once out of high school she got work as a cloakroom attendant at the Cavern Club, a jazz club where The Beatles also performed. As a staff member of the club, she ended up doing some spontaneous performances on stage. The Beatles heard her perform and were dazzled by her voice. Soon she was booked under the billing, “Swinging Cilla,” at the Casanova Club. She guest starred with several local bands including Merseybeat Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. An article in the local music paper, Mersey Beat, featured Cilla. Written by the paper’s publisher, Bill Harry, he identified her in the article mistakenly as Cilla Black, not by her actual surname Cilla White. But the word-on-the-street from the article had people talking about this new local Merseybeat performer, Cilla Black. So Cilla White decided to take on Cilla Black as her stage name.
Cilla Black was encouraged by John Lennon to audition for Brian Epstein, The Beatles manager. In her autobiography, What’s It All About?, she recalled the disaster that her audition turned out to be: “I’d chosen to do “Summertime,” but at the very last moment I wished I hadn’t. I adored this song, and had sung it when I came to Birkenhead…, but I hadn’t rehearsed it with the Beatles and it had just occurred to me that they would play it in the wrong key. It was too late for second thoughts, though. With one last wicked wink at me, John set the group off playing. I’d been right to worry. The music was not in my key and any adjustments that the boys were now trying to make were too late to save me. My voice sounded awful. Destroyed—and wanting to die—I struggled on to the end.”
It was only after Epstein was encouraged to go and hear Black perform at the Blue Angel jazz club in Liverpool that he concurred with The Beatles that Black was a find. He shortly afterward got her a contract with Parlophone Records. They got her on to appear on the British variety show, Thank Your Lucky Stars, where she sang her debut Top 40 single.
Cilla Black was part of a wave of British female singers who, except for Petula Clark, didn’t write their own songs. Along with Dusty Springfield, Helen Shapiro, Shirley Bassey, Sandie Shaw, Marianne Faithfull, Jackie Trent, Mary Hopkins and Lulu, Cilla Black interpreted other songwriters compositions.
Her fourth single release in the UK, and her second single on the pop charts in Vancouver, was “It’s for You”. The song was composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. On June 3, 1964, Paul McCartney made a demo of the song and gave it to Cilla Black. She recorded it a month later at Abbey Road Studios with George Martin. In her autobiography she said of the recording: “That was some session…John and Paul joined me and George Martin. We made one track and then everyone had a go at suggesting how they thought it should be recorded. George said it should be one way, John and Paul another and I just added my suggestions while they were thinking of what else they could do with the composition.”
Capitol Records in North America hoped that Cilla Black recording a Lennon–McCartney tune would result in a best selling single. Although the song “It’s for You” came on the heels of two number one hits in the UK, the song peaked on the British charts at #7, the same position as in Vancouver in early October. In the USA it stalled on the Billboard Hot 100 at #79. But in Australia it climbed into that nations Top 20 peaking at #17.
“It’s For You” is a song about discernment, the recognition that we can choose who to love. The songs lyrics relate that the singer has had to contend with others’ views that love was “a lie.” In the face of those who need to be “right” about love being a lie, Black sings she doesn’t want to argue with them. “Tell them they’re right” she sings. It seems in secret that she and the one she gives her heart to know alone what they share: “I give my heart and no one knows, that I do, it’s for you.” Certainly the advice of others can derail our inner knowing. Better to ask one’s own heart what it feels than have friends play the role of Dear Abby.
Black continued to have more hit singles in the UK, including Paul McCartney’s “Step Inside Love” in 1968 (#8 UK), “Surround Yourself With Sorrow” in 1969 (#3 UK) and in 1971 “Something Tells Me (Something’s Gonna Happen Tonight)” (#3 UK). In 1968 she starred in her own variety show with the BBC called Cilla, which ran for eight years. She also won awards for her role as a comedian on TV in Cilla Comedy Six.
From the early 80s to the early 2000s Cilla Black was host to two long-running shows on London Weekend Television: Surprise Surprise (1984-2001) and Blind Date (1985-2003). She had a shorter run with the game show The Moment of Truth (1998-2001).
Between 1964 and 1971 Cilla Black charted eleven songs into the Top Ten in the UK. In 2014, Black was the subject of a three-part television drama series, Cilla, focusing especially on her rise to fame in 1960s Liverpool and her relationship with her manager and eventual husband, Bobby Willis. Cilla Black died in 2015.
April 25, 2017
Cilla Black Biography, Cilla Black.com
Black, Cilla. What’s It All About? Random House, New York, 2003, p. 65.
Dave Laing, “Cilla Black Obituary: One of the Leading Pop Singers of the 1960s Who Went on to Have a Successful Television Career with Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise,” Guardian, August 2, 2015
Emma Brockes, “‘I Was Dead Chuffed’,” Guardian, June 14, 2004
Umberto Bindi, “Il Mio Mondo,”1964.
Bobby Willis, Wikipedia.org.
“C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, October 3, 1964.
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