Updated at: 11/09/2012 1:05 PM
By JILL LAWLESS
(AP) LONDON - Actor Bill Tarmey, who for 30 years played loveable rogue Jack Duckworth on the British soap opera "Coronation Street," died Friday at the age of 71, the show’s producers said.
Tarmey died on the Spanish island of Tenerife. He had been in poor health for many years with heart problems and other ailments.
"I could make it easier on myself. I could give up smoking. I could go and sit in a rocking chair," Tarmey once said. "But that wouldn’t be me. That would kill me sooner than the old ticker would."
Work-shy, pigeon-fancying Jack and his tart-tongued wife Vera, played by Liz Dawn, were among the longest-running characters on the soap, which is set in a working-class town in northwest England. Their rocky but enduring relationship was at the emotional heart of the fictional community of Weatherfield.
Tarmey was a former laborer and nightclub singer who first appeared on "Coronation Street" in 1977 as an extra. He was made a regular two years later and stayed until 2010. Some 11 million people watched his final episode, in which Jack died peacefully in his armchair.
He was also a singer, and had two top-40 singles in Britain, including a cover of "Wind Beneath My Wings."
But he remained modest.
"I’m just a pillock (fool) who comes into a studio to say some words that some other clever person has written," Tarmey wrote in his autobiography, "Jack Duckworth And Me."
"For years, I’d managed to get away with it, but I’d always been waiting for the bubble to burst."
"Coronation Street" has fans around the globe _ including rapper Snoop Dogg, who recorded a message to mark its 50th anniversary in 2010.
Tarmey is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)