Cilla Black's star-studded funeral to start with Sir Cliff Richard performance


Cilla Black will be laid to rest today as family, fans and stars from across the showbiz world gather to say a final tearful goodbye at her funeral.

Sir Cliff Richard will pay his own musical tribute, performing his song Faithful One at the start of the service to celebrate her life and mourn the passing of one of Britain's most enduring and best loved entertainers.

The star will return to Liverpool - where she first found fame - for the last time with hundreds of fans expected to line the two-mile route to the church to pay their respects as her cortege passes.

Her funeral will begin at 1pm at St Mary's Church in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton. The church was where she received a wedding blessing on marrying her much-loved late husband and manager Bobby Willis in 1969.

Fellow TV celebrity and close friend Christopher Biggins will give a reading during the service, before Liverpudlian entertainers Jimmy Tarbuck leads mourners in prayers and Paul O'Grady, who called Black his "best friend" gives a final eulogy.

Born Priscilla Maria Veronica White, she grew up with her parents and brothers above a barber's shop in the tough dockland district of Scotland Road, the inner-city area ravaged by wartime bombing.

Black's first 'performances' were as a youngster standing on a chair during post-pub singsongs with her family in the days long before TV entertainment.

But her big break came after she took a part-time job as a cloakroom girl at The Cavern Club, met The Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein and rose to fame and fortune in the Merseybeat era of the Swinging Sixties.

Younger generations grew up with her as a staple of Saturday night TV, on her long-running popular shows Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise.

Black's career spanned six decades before her sudden death, aged 72, after a fall at her villa in Spain on August 1.

During the Catholic requiem mass presided over by the Right Reverend Thomas Williams, Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool, psalms and biblical readings will be given and Amazing Grace will be among the hymns sung by the church choir.

Poems will be read by two of Black's three sons, Robert - who is also her manager - and Ben.

Black's 1964 number one Anyone Who Had A Heart will be played and The Beatles composition The Long And Winding Road will close the service.

Her body will then be laid to rest at a private ceremony in Allerton Cemetery alongside her parents.

:: Black may be on course to top the albums chart on Friday, with her The Very Best Of collection provisionally sitting at number two, the Official Charts Company. The record re-entered the Top 40 at number 14 two weeks ago following the entertainer's death.