During the mid-1960s, the singer Kathy Kirby, who has died aged 72 after a short illness, was almost ever-present on television variety shows. Her powerful vocal style was heard on the million-selling hits Dance On and Secret Love, and her blonde hair and hourglass figure drew comparisons to Marilyn Monroe.
She was born Kathleen O'Rourke in Ilford, Essex, the eldest of three children of Irish parents. Her mother, Eileen, brought up the family alone after their father left home when the children were very young. Kirby showed a taste for show business from an early age, winning a toddlers' talent contest at three years old. After leaving a local convent school with three O-levels, and dyeing her natural red hair blonde, she regularly attended the Ilford Palais de Danse. There, dressed in a tight black dress and black evening gloves,