British singer and TV host Cilla Black dies at 72

By JILL LAWLESS

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.

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 1968 file photo, From left to right: George Alexander; Pete Swettenham, Geoffrey Swettenham and John Perry, the four members of the "Grapefruit" pop group are seen seated at a table at the launch of their record "Dear Delilah, in the Mayfair Suite at Hanover Grand Hotel in London, with with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, folk singer Donovan; Beatles' Ringo Starr and John Lennon; Cilla Black and Paul McCartney in the background. Police say big-voiced British singer and TV host Cilla Black has died aged 72. Spanish police said Sunday that the singer, who had a home in Estepona, southern Spain, died Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Robert Dear, File)
FILE – In this Jan. 18, 1968 file photo, From left to right: George Alexander; Pete Swettenham, Geoffrey Swettenham and John Perry, the four members of the “Grapefruit” pop group are seen seated at a table at the launch of their record “Dear Delilah, in the Mayfair Suite at Hanover Grand Hotel in London, with with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, folk singer Donovan; Beatles’ Ringo Starr and John Lennon; Cilla Black and Paul McCartney in the background. Police say big-voiced British singer and TV host Cilla Black has died aged 72. Spanish police said Sunday that the singer, who had a home in Estepona, southern Spain, died Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Robert Dear, File)

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 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.

 

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