Cilla Black’s friends and colleagues have paid tribute to ‘one of the brightest stars in showbiz’ after hearing news of her death.
The star hit the big time in the 1960s with her number one singles Anyone Who Had A Heart and You're My World.
In 2013 she celebrated her 50 years in showbusiness. Other highlights in her glittering career including hosting Blind Date and Surprise Surprise.
She is understood to have died at her holiday home in Spain overnight.
A Spanish police spokesman was reported to have told a national newspaper: “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.”
Fellow Mersey Beat star Gerry Marsden told how he will miss her Scouse sense of humour.
He said: “She was a dear friend, and still was. And she was a dear friend of my wife’s.
“The Pacemakers were the band who backed her in the Cavern on a few songs to go down to EMI for a recording test. So I was really close to her.
“She was a typical Scouse. That’s what I’ll always remember, that sense of humour. She was a good girl and a dear friend of all of the bands who played the Cavern. They all grew up together.
“We all loved her, and although she left Liverpool she loved Liverpool.”
'Star has dimmed'
Coronation Street’s Les Dennis said “one of the brightest stars in showbiz has dimmed” after the death of one of his heroes.
The tearful actor, who worked with Cilla in the Empire’s 2008 Cinderella panto, shared his memories of working alongside the television legend.
He said: “It was absolutely the most joyous thing to do. She just won over the Liverpool audience. The moment she walked on stage and sang Step Inside Love their hearts just melted because she was absolutely the star and she was a true, true Liverpool woman.
“She was nervous but she didn’t have to be. She held that stage and was fantastic.
“Her and Tarby were like the fifth and sixth Beatles. In the 60s it was the Beatles, Cilla and Tarby as the funny one. They were the entertainment branch of the Beatles.
Cilla inspired him to pursue a career in entertainment, he added.
“I remember as a kid watching Sunday Night at the London Palladium and watching Cilla when she got her first number one, as we watched again recently with Sheridan Smith’s performance of her in Cilla. It reminded us of what massive star she was. But still she stayed up there all the way through.
“As a kid, watching her, and watching the Beatles, and watching Tarby, because they were from Liverpool, it seemed so close and like I could achieve that.
“I didn’t meet a hero and be disappointed. Everybody in Liverpool will be so sad about it.”
He added: “I’m sorry that one of the brightest stars in the showbiz world has dimmed and the showbiz world is a colder and sadder place for it.”
'She will always be with us'
Long-term friend Cliff Richard said: “Some people will always be with us and Cilla is one of those people. I will always think of her as outrageous, funny, incredibly gifted but above all full of heart.
"She was a very special person, and I have lost a very wonderful friend, I will miss her dearly. God bless her.”
Poet Roger McGough said he was shocked by the news.
He said: “It’s just a shock when we heard that out of the blue. We’re all saying, I wonder what Liverpool is going to do to mark this.
“She’s very special to all of us really. You can’t think of people more loved than Cilla.
“I knew her from when she was a hat check girl in Liverpool. She was well-known around the place – it was Cilla, she was just larger than life, and remained so really. I went to her 60th birthday I remember.
“She was always very loyal really to friends and colleagues.
“You forget what a voice she had and what a great singer she was.”
'She was a lovely girl'
Sam Leach , who gave Cilla her first regular paid gig at the Casanova Club in the 1960s, said: “It’s very sad. She was a lovely girl.
“I launched Cilla Black’s career at the Casanova club in March 1961 - Cabaret time at the Casanova Club, with Swinging Cilla.
“We were having a party at the Iron Door club and a friend of Cilla’s said ‘Cilla’s got a good voice’. So I got her up with Rory Storm, to back her. But Rory’s band weren’t that good musically, and they were out of key. So she sang two bars of Fever, ran off, and hid in the toilet.
“But I waited for her to come out because I could hear how good she was. I said ‘you’ve got a fantastic voice, I want to put you on at the Casanova Club next Saturday’.
“She said ‘no, I’m not doing it. I’m no good’.”
He persisted however.
“I went and put an advert in the ECHO on the Monday or the Tuesday, saying she was appearing and showed it to her and said you’ve got no choice now. I got her a rehearsal with The Big Three.
“And on the Saturday she went down fantastic. I gave her £12. And I remember she bought a red coat with it and came running in The Grapes showing it off to me, and Paul and John and Dick Matthews and all of them.
“She was a lovely, lovely, ordinary girl.”
Radio presenter 'flabbergasted'
Radio City presenter Pete Price has taken comfort in the fact his friend Cilla Black is now with her late husband Bobby.
The radio presenter has shared memories of the flame-haired singer from Liverpool who wowed him with her vocals and became a close pal he enjoyed jokes with on a night out.
He says he was “flabbergasted” when he heard of her her death.
He explains: “I was only speaking to her the other day, she was buzzing. She’d got rid of the pain from her arms, she was pain free and fighting fit and we were going out when she got back from Spain.
“The only good thing is she will be with Bobby because she’s never ever got over the loss of Bobby.
“When we were together in Barbados, and in Spain where she passed away, and London, we always talked about Bobby. It’s the one thing she wanted to talk about.
“There was only one man in her life and that was Bobby.”
'I always remember that flame red hair'
Pete gave his tribute from outside the Cavern – the first place he saw a young Cilla working in the cloakroom in the 60s.
He says: “I always remember that flame red hair. The week after I was at the YMCA in Hoylake and a group called The Big Three got up, and she got up and sang Fever and that was the first time I heard her sing. I couldn’t believe it - I didn’t know she was a singer. Wow!
“We got to know each other over the years but when we did the panto together in 2008 that’s when we cemented a close friendship.
“What I loved about her was she was one of our biggest stars ever and she always will be. She had fabulous homes but they were lived in. She had that Liverpool attitude. Yes she had staff, but she would make a bacon butty for you – of course, she had a glass of champagne in her hand.
“One time we went for a drink and we finished up at G-Bar and Garlands at quarter to six in the morning. We put her coat on inside out and she got papped – and they saw the label. She loved it. She was fun.
“I always remember her telling me a story, which I loved. She was top of the bill at the Palladium and was a huge star and one day she drove home to see her dad. And she came in and sat in the seat in the house and her dad went ‘I’m sure that’s my seat’.
“People didn’t understand, she had to go to London – that was her job - but she never forgot her roots.
“She was a grafter. She was fun. There will be a lot of people upset. I cannot believe we’ve lost her.”
'She was amazing'
Liverpool actress Jennifer Ellison today told how Cilla Black was a huge inspiration to her.
The theatre star, who shared the stage with Cilla in the Liverpool Empire’s production of Cinderella, paid an emotional tribute to the TV legend, who sparkled as the Fairy Godmother in 2008.
Jennifer, who starred as Cinderella, grew up watching shows that Cilla was well-known for such as Surprise Surprise and Blind Date.
She said: “She was amazing. They were my favourite shows.
“It was great to have the opportunity to work with someone who was a true icon, and who was still working after all those years.
“There will never be another panto like that for Liverpool. The audience just went wild for her.
“She had all this talent that could capture an audience. She had them in the palm of her hand.”
Jennifer added: “When you get to work with people who are icons you worry they could take themselves seriously, but Cilla was amazing.
“She loved to have a glass of fizz at the end of every show and she loved to have fun. It was an honour to work with her.”
Paying tribute on Facebook, Lee Kelly, who choreographed Cinderella at the Empire in 2008, said: “What a privilege and honour to choreograph this lady. A true star!
“A highlight of my career working with this amazing lady. RIP Cilla x”
'Part of the fabric of our lives'
Bob Carolgees , who worked on Surprise Surprise with Cilla, said: “This is shocking news, I first worked with Cilla in summer season nearly 40 years ago and went on to work with her for almost 10 years on Surprise Surprise along with summer season and pantomime.
“She has been taken far too early but can now be with her beloved Bobby. Thoughts to all her family.”
Richard Madeley said: “It is incredibly sad. For people of a certain age, certain generations, Cilla has been part of the fabric all our lives.
“From the very first time I was old enough to realise what was going on, Cilla was there, first with her hugely successful signing career and then on TV. And she stayed there.
“She was a real one-off. There really was no-one like her and with her gone, there is a real sense that a piece is missing from our lives.
“We knew her over the years, interviewed and worked with her many times, and I think people will find themselves upset because she had the Cilla touch, she reached out to all levels.
“It is quite hard to accept she has gone. 72 is no age nowadays. It is a really sad day.”
Paul O’Grady has told how he and best mate Cilla Black shared an unbreakable bond because of their Scouse roots.
The Merseyside chat show host paid an emotional tribute to his showbiz “sister” and “partner in crime” and said he felt lost without her.
Whether it was taking trips down memory lane or joking about their Scouse sayings, Paul admits the pair made a hilarious double act.
He said: “God I’m going miss her. She was a very loyal friend Cilla. She was more like a sister.
“I’ve lost my good mate. It’s very sad. It just doesn’t seem real.
“We used to get invited to dinner parties as the entertainment, of course we didn’t mind.
“We were just being ourselves but people said we were like a double act. We had the same roots you see, that’s how we connected. We were both from similar working class backgrounds.
Cilla actress 'devastated'
The actress who played Cilla Black in a critically acclaimed ITV drama spoke of her sadness at the singer’s death.
Sheridan Smith, who starred in the three-part drama series called Cilla, issued an emotional statement on Twitter.
She wrote: “I am absolutely devastated to hear the tragic news about Cilla.
“She was the most remarkable woman, a true legend.
“She was so kind and helpful to me, it was a privilege to play her.
“My condolences go out to her family and all who loved her. She will be truly missed.”