Whether you remember first hearing her on the radio in the 1960s or seeing her on TV in the 1980s and 1990s, there’s no doubt that Cilla Black is a showbiz institution.
Still, it may come as a surprise (surprise) to some fans to realise that she’s now been an entertainer for 50 years. Even the lady herself is struggling to take it in.
She says; “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years since I started this incredible journey. I’ve made some wonderful friends over the years and experienced some magical moments.”
“I’m thrilled to be back at ITV to celebrate these in a special one-off entertainment show”.
Although the artist known as Priscilla White first began singing in Liverpool clubs in the very early 1960s, she’s dating her showbiz debut to the autumn of 1963, when she was signed up by the Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
It also saw the release of her debut single, Love of the Loved, which, perhaps surprisingly for a song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, was only a modest hit, reaching number 35 in the charts.
However, in January 1964, she scored a number one with Anyone Who Had a Heart, repeated the feat with You’re My World, and a star was born.
Not content with conquering the charts, Cilla went on to take over the small screen as well. The BBC gave the singer her own, self-titled series in 1968, which ran, on-and-off, for eight years.
Then in 1984, she was asked to host the series Surprise Surprise for ITV, and the following year, she was recruited to present Blind Date - Cilla once joked to the Sunday Times that she got the job because TV bosses wanted someone ‘sexless and inoffensive’ in case the show got too risqué.
Whatever their reasons for picking her, they made the right choice - with Cilla at the helm, the series ran for an impressive 19 years.
And ITV is clearly grateful for her years as a ratings banker because they are throwing a very special party to celebrate her 50th anniversary.
Her old mate Paul O’Grady is our host, while plenty of other famous friends, ranging from Amanda Holden to Ringo Starr, will either be dropping by in person or sending their best regards via video.
Alison Moyet and Katie Melua will also be paying tribute to Cilla with their own versions of two of her biggest hits, and she’ll also be hosting a round of Blind Date featuring some of the most memorable contestants.
There’s also a tip of the hat to Surprise Surprise with O’Grady in the Cilla (or for younger viewers, Holly Willoughby) role as he grants one of her wishes and arranges for her to star in a special Coronation Street scene.
And if all this sounds a little like Cilla is receiving the TV equivalent of a gold clock on her retirement, don’t be fooled.
She’ll soon be joining forces with O’Grady again for the BBC sitcom Led Astray.
Sounds like a lorra, lorra laughs.
THE ONE AND ONLY CILLA BLACK, ITV, Wednesday 9pm