3 Aug 2015

Entertainer Cilla Black dies aged 72

8:33 am on 3 August 2015

British singer and TV star Cilla Black, who enjoyed a 50-year showbusiness career, has died aged 72, her agent has said.

The 1960s singing star later became a popular TV celebrity in the UK on such shows as Blind Date and Surprise Surprise.

Cilla Black, has died aged 72.

Cilla Black, has died aged 72. Photo: AFP

Spanish police said a woman named Priscilla White - Black's real name - had died in Estepona on the Costa del Sol, where the star had a home.

The death appeared to be due to natural causes, but this had not yet been confirmed by tests, police said.

"It is with deep sorrow that I confirm... the passing of singer and TV personality Cilla Black," said her agent, Nick Fiveash.

"Details of her death will be announced following the coroner's report. Her family have asked for their privacy to be respected at this time."

Prime Minister David Cameron has led tributes to the beloved entertainer, remembering her as "a huge talent who made a significant contribution to public life".

"Such a shock to hear about Cilla's passing," said Sir Paul McCartney. "She was a lovely girl who infected everyone with her great spirit.

"From first meeting her as a cloak room girl at the Cavern in Liverpool, to seeing her many times since, she always had a fun-loving dignity that made her a great pleasure to be around."

Born Priscilla White in Liverpool, Black changed her name to launch a singing career with hits such as Anyone Who Had a Heart and You're My World.

Her career focus shifted to television in 1968, when she was given her own BBC One primetime series, and she went on to host a number of shows for ITV.

Black's journey to stardom began at Liverpool's famous Cavern Club, where she started work as a part-time cloakroom attendant.

It was there she met her husband-to-be Bobby Willis and went on to perform alongside such acts as The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

She was soon brought to the attention of manager Brian Epstein and released her first single, Love of the Loved, in September 1963.

cilla black

Cilla Black had a string of hits in the 60s. Photo: AFP

The following year she released the ballads You're My World and Anyone Who Had a Heart, both of which went to number one.

She and Willis wed in 1969 and remained married until his death in 1999 at the age of 57.

The couple had three sons, one of whom, Robert, succeeded his father as her manager.

Last year Black received honours from Bafta and the Royal Television Society in recognition of her lengthy career.

A recent ITV drama series about her early years saw her played by the actress Sheridan Smith.

Lord Grade, former executive chairman of ITV, said Black was a "natural performer of the highest quality" and "one of the all-time greats in showbiz".

The Cavern Club in Liverpool paid its own tribute with a sign announcing the death of its "famous cloak room girl".

Speaking to the BBC last year, Black described herself as "a lady of leisure" who was "living disgracefully" in semi-retirement.

"I'm going to enjoy myself," she said. "If it be in television then so be it, but I've had my time."