A redhead loved by Beatles

Singer Cilla Black, who died at 72, was also a popular host of British television shows

Cilla Black was known for hits such as You're My World.
Cilla Black was known for hits such as You're My World.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

LONDON • Cilla Black, the 1960s pop star championed by The Beatles who became one of Britain's best-loved television presenters, died in Spain aged 72, the Spanish police said on Sunday.

The police said she died at her home in Estepona in the Costa del Sol region in southern Spain. They said the death was discovered overnight and appeared to be due to natural causes, but this had not yet been confirmed by tests.

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

British Prime Minister David Cameron said his thoughts were with her family and praised her "huge talent", saying she "made a significant contribution to public life in Britain".

Former Beatle Paul McCartney called her a "lovely girl who infected everyone with her great spirit" and called it "a privilege to know and love her".

Warm, kind and full of laughs, the working-class redhead was a fixture on British TV for more than 50 years and known affectionately as Cilla to generations of Britons.

She was born Priscilla White in the tough Scotland Road area of Liverpool in northern England on May 27, 1943. Determined to get a foothold in the entertainment world, she worked as a cloakroom assistant in the city's Cavern Club - the birthplace of The Beatles.

Her impromptu singing impressed the band and they introduced her to their manager Brian Epstein, who signed her.

Beatles John Lennon and McCartney wrote her first single, Love Of The Loved, which was released in 1963 and which launched a music career that included two No. 1 singles in 1964, You're My World and Anyone Who Had A Heart.

She went on to release 14 albums and her other hits included the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song Alfie, from the 1966 film of the same name.

She later moved to television, hosting a string of top shows. She was also the first woman to be given her own prime-time chat show on BBC Television.

One hit was Surprise Surprise, a show that involved surprising members of the public with long-lost loved ones or fulfilling long-held dreams. Another hit was Blind Date, a match-making show that ran for 18 years between 1985 and 2003.

Black became an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997 and was given a special award by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) last year. In its citation, the Bafta said she had hosted more than 500 TV shows and made about 400 guest appearances on others, regularly drawing audiences of 18 million people.

She is survived by three sons. A daughter died in infancy.

Black's teenage sweetheart Bobby Willis, whom she married in the 1960s and who was her manager for most of her career, died of liver and lung cancer in 1999.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'A redhead loved by Beatles '. Subscribe