LONDON (AP) — Big-voiced British singer Cilla Black, a product of Beatles-era Liverpool who became a national treasure over a 50-year music and television career, has died. She was 72.
Spanish police said Sunday that the singer died Saturday at her home in Estepona, southern Spain. Black’s spokesman, Nick Fiveash, confirmed her death and said details would be released after a coroner’s report was completed.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney said news of Black’s death came as a shock. “She had a fine distinctive voice and was always a bit of a laugh. It was a privilege to know and love her,” McCartney said in a statement.
Ringo Starr tweeted: “She was a good friend we will all miss her.”
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Black was born Priscilla White in Liverpool, northwest England, in 1943. As a teenager she sang part-time and worked in the cloakroom of the Cavern Club, where her musical talent was spotted by rising local stars The Beatles.
Signed by the Fab Four’s manager, Brian Epstein, she had a string of hits starting in 1964 with “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and “You’re My World.” Both went to No. 1 in Britain, and the latter also charted in the U.S.
She also had success with the Bacharach-David theme tune for the 1966 film “Alfie,” and recorded several Beatles songs, including “The Long and Winding Road.”
By the late ’60s she was famous enough to be known by her first name alone, and hosted a BBC variety show, “Cilla.”
With her reliable good cheer and tireless work ethic, Black was a TV natural. Her catchphrase — delivered in a strong Liverpool accent that replaced the letter “t” with “r” — was “a lorra, lorra laughs.”
She became a British television fixture as the cheeky, cheery host of matchmaking game show “Blind Date” (between 1985 and 2003) and heartwarming-reunion program “Surprise Surprise” (between 1984 and 2001).
“She always felt like a friend in your living room, on your TV screen,” television executive Michael Grade told Sky News.
In a tweet, her friend Joan Collins called Black “a resplendent and rare talent.”
Black’s manager and husband of 30 years, Bobby Willis, died in 1999. She is survived by their three sons.
AP Writer Harold Heckle in Madrid contributed to this report.