TRIBUTES have poured in for “national treasure” Cilla Black after the entertainer died at her home in the south of Spain.
The former pop star and television presenter, who lived in Estepona on the Costa del Sol, was 72.
Black – who suffered from hearing problems and arthritis – reportedly died overnight after flying to Spain with her son Robert.
Singer Sir Cliff Richard said he will miss his “outrageous” friend dearly.
“Some people will always be with us and Cilla is one of those people,” he said.
“I will always think of her as outrageous, funny, incredibly gifted but above all full of heart.
She felt like a friend in your living room when she was on TVLord Grade
“She was a very special person, and I have lost a very wonderful friend, I will miss her dearly. God bless her.”
Friend and fellow presenter Christopher Biggins, who starred alongside Cilla in Surprise! Surprise!, described Black as a “national treasure” adding that she will “always be with me”.
“It’s devastating news, really devastating,” he said.
“She was a wonderful friend. She was someone who was a life force, she loved to laugh and loved to enjoy herself.
“She will always be with me. She was a national treasure.”
Lord Grade, former executive chairman of ITV, said a once nervous Cilla soon gained a natural confidence in front of the cameras and went on to become an “enduring family favourite”.
“A natural, natural performer of the highest quality,” he said. “One of the all time greats in showbiz.
“She always felt like a friend in your living room when she was on TV. A magical lady.
“She had a huge, huge talent once she got her confidence. She became a national favourite, an enduring family favourite.”
SEE ALSO: Obituary: Cilla Black OBE, entertainer
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “Cilla Black was a huge talent who made a significant contribution to public life in Britain. My thoughts are with her family.”
Born as Priscilla Maria Veronica White in Liverpool, Black had spoken of how she would die happy if she were to pass away before any illness could rob her of being able to enjoy life.
She became one of the nation’s favourite entertainers after transforming herself from a successful singer in the 1960s to the front woman on shows such as Blind Date and Surprise! Surprise!
An associate of The Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein in the early 1960s, she scored two number ones in 1964 – Anyone Who Had A Heart and You’re My World – as well as enjoying many other hits, before going on to concentrate on TV.
She went on to host more than 500 editions of her programmes and was the first woman to have her own prime-time chat show on BBC1.
The life of the entertainer was portrayed in an ITV biopic last year, which followed the story of the typist’s rise to fame.
Cilla, which starred Sheridan Smith and pulled in more than seven million viewers, propelled the singer briefly back in to the music charts with Anyone Who Had A Heart.
Tony Hall, director-general of the BBC, said: “Cilla Black was a wonderful artist and talented entertainer who brought joy to millions. She will be deeply missed.”
Sir Bruce Forsyth said he could not believe that Black had died aged 72 as he still thought of her as a “kid”.
The TV presenter and entertainer said that Black was loved by everyone and had the “common touch”.
Sir Bruce, 87, said: “Bobby will be there to meet her, she never really got over Bobby her husband leaving when he did.
“What a lovely performer, what a lovely lady and we’re going to miss you.”
A sign was pinned up at Liverpool’s Cavern Club yesterday, where she began her music career. It said The Cavern Club is “sad to announce the passing of its famous cloak room girl & performer Cilla Black”. It helped open a door to her music career, where she took to the stage alongside The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers.
It was the start of a successful music career in which Black had 19 top 40 hits, including 11 which made it in to the top ten.
She was soon working with the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and made her Official Singles Chart debut in 1963 with Love of the Loved.
The 1964 track Anyone Who Had a Heart took her to number one and on the musical road to fame.
Her version of Anyone Who Had a Heart, first recorded by Dionne Warwick, was the biggest selling single of the 1960s by a female solo artist. The hit brought her three weeks at the top of the charts and her success in reaching number one was repeated with the song You’re My World. Black’s last big recording was Something Tells Me (Something is Gonna Happen Tonight) in 1973, which peaked at number three.