Sir Cliff Richard leads tributes to Cilla Black

SURPRISE SURPRISE and Blind Date star Cilla Black has died aged 72.

Cilla Black
Cilla Black

The former pop star and television presenter, who lived in Estepona on the Costa del Sol, was 72.

A Spanish police spokeswoman as saying: “I can confirm the death of British national Priscilla White, aged 72.

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“We are still awaiting autopsy results but everything at this stage is pointing towards her death being the result of natural causes.”

When contacted by the Press Association, police in Estepona said they were not authorised to give out information over the phone, while police in nearby Marbella said they would not hold records of deaths in Estepona.

Singer Sir Cliff Richard said he will miss his “outrageous” friend dearly.

“Some people will always be with us and Cilla is one of those people,” he said.

“I will always think of her as outrageous, funny, incredibly gifted but above all full of heart.

“She was a very special person, and I have lost a very wonderful friend, I will miss her dearly. God bless her.”

Friend and fellow presenter Christopher Biggins, who starred alongside Cilla in Surprise! Surprise!, described the entertainer as a “national treasure” adding that she will “always be with me”.

“It’s devastating news, really devastating,” he said.

“She was a wonderful friend. She was someone who was a life force, she loved to laugh and loved to enjoy herself.

“She will always be with me. She was a national treasure.”

Family Fortunes presenter and Coronation Street star Les Dennis said in a series of tweets he felt like “the nation has lost a family member”.

“Just heard one of THE brightest stars in the show biz firmament, Our Cilla, has faded. The sky is far less bright without you Tara Chuck x,” he wrote.

“All our love goes to her family so shocked and saddened for you xx.”

Former politician turned TV star Edwina Currie said she was “sad to see this - great lady”.

Singer Conor Maynard said he felt like Black had “played a big part in my childhood”. He said she was “such a great entertainer”.

Former Queen guitarist Brian May posted a video of her singing on his Facebook page, after writing: “The wonderful Cilla Black has died. How very sad. RIP.”

Cilla Black was a 1960s pop star of the Beatles era who became one of the most highly paid and successful light entertainment performers in the history of British television.

Hers was a remarkable career by any standards. Few of the pop singers of that era lasted more than a decade in the limelight.

But Cilla, 72, whose rare talents were matched by a phenomenal capacity for hard work, remained in the public eye and at the highest level for approaching half a century.

Her hugely successful TV series, notably Blind Date and Surprise! Surprise! were for years a staple diet for Saturday night viewing.

Cilla’s enduring popularity stemmed largely from her amiable nature and her proud Liverpudlian accent, addressing people affectionately as “chuck” and her breezy “lorra, lorra laughs” catch-phrases.

She was born Priscilla Maria Veronica White on May 27, 1943 and was encouraged to sing by her family. In the early 1960s she got a part-time job as a cloakroom attendant at the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool where the Beatles regularly played.

She quickly impressed the Beatles and others with her talent, when she gave impromptu performances at the Cavern. At this time, she also worked as a waitress in the Zodiac coffee lounge, where she met her future husband and manager Bobby Willis.

Cilla was introduced to Brian Epstein by John Lennon who persuaded him to audition her. In September, 1963, Epstein signed her up as his only female client.

Her debut single, Love of the Loved, written for her by Lennon and McCartney, was a relative failure. But her second single the Burt Bacharach-Hal David composition, Anyone Who Had A Heart shot to Number One and became the biggest-selling single by a female artist in the history of British popular music.

This launched her on an extraordinary pop career, with 20 consecutive Top 40 hits on the British single and EP charts, including 11 British Top Ten singles and two consecutive Number One singles in 1964.

Her hits included You’re My World, Alfie, the theme song from the Michael Caine film of that name, and Step Inside Love.

Cilla’s pop career persisted until the end of the 1960s, by which time she was an internationally-acclaimed star, having notably successfully broken into the notoriously difficult United States market.

She branched into acting with 1964’s Ferry Across the Mersey, which featured Gerry & The Pacemakers, also out of Epstein’s stable.

But by August 1967, only days before his premature death, Epstein had engineered Cilla’s switch to television. It was a shrewd move and, largely through her own sheer drive, she remained at the height of popularity until the end of the century and beyond.

Her own variety show for the BBC regularly commanded staggering audiences of 22 million. So while her pop career was declining she was developing into the most popular figure on television.

It was this resounding TV success which was eclipsing her musical career, although she always said she preferred to be remembered for her songs than for anything else.

Blind Date (1985-2003), Surprise! Surprise! (1984-1999) and Moment of Truth (1998-2001) never lost their popularity during their long and successful runs.

Cilla was awarded an OBE in 1997. In 2005, her autobiography What’s It All About? became a best-seller. She has been the recipient of many TV honours and awards.

Willis. her husband and manager, to whom she was married for over 30 years, died in the late 1990s.

She is survived by three sons, one of whom, Robert, succeeded his father as her manager.