Blind Date and Surprise Surprise host Cilla Black has died aged 72.
The TV presenter, who started her showbiz career as a pop singer, passed away of natural causes in her Marbella villa. Spanish police announced her death today.
A police spokesman said: “I can confirm the death of British national Priscilla White, aged 72. We are still awaiting autopsy results but everything at this stage is pointing towards her death being the result of natural causes.”
Liverpool-born Cilla changed her surname to ‘Black’ when she began her career as a singer in 1963. Her years singing alongside Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Beatles, with whom she shared manager Brian Epstein, at the city’s Cavern Club were recently the subject of an award-winning ITV biopic starring Sheridan Smith.
She released 14 albums including the number one hits Anyone Who Had a Heart and You’re My World, before becoming a TV presenter. In 1968, she became the first woman to have her own primetime chat show on BBC1. She went on to present Surprise Surprise and Blind Date for nearly two decades, famously quitting live on air in 2003 because she didn’t want to be talked out of her decision.
Paul O’Grady, who presented his old friend with a lifetime achievement award at the Baftas in 2014, told the Liverpool Echo that he was devastated by the news of her death.
“Please tell me this isn’t true? We’ve been friends for nearly 20 years. She’s like my sister,” the TV presenter said.
“Apart from her hearing, she was alright. We had a week together in Barbados at the beginning of the year and I saw her on my birthday. I thought she was well. I can’t believe it to tell you the truth… I kept telling her she’d outlive us all. She’s such a strong lady.”
O’Grady presented his Merseyside “sister” Cilla with a lifetime achievement award in 2014
Last September, Black told the Radio Times: “I just thank God when I wake up every day. I’m going to grow old disgracefully. It’s come full circle and is once more about me, me, me. I can do anything I want.”
She was married to her manager Bobby Willis for 30 years until he passed away in 1999 at the age of 57. She leaves three sons, Robert, Ben and Jack, as well as two grandchildren.