Saturday 16 December 2017

Profile: a chart-topper across five decades

File photograph shows singer Cliff Richard performing during the Diamond Jubilee concert in front of Buckingham Palace in London June 4, 2012
File photograph shows singer Cliff Richard performing during the Diamond Jubilee concert in front of Buckingham Palace in London June 4, 2012

Anthony Barnes, Press Association

CLIFF RICHARD has been one of the music world's most enduring stars, creating chart-topping singles across five separate decades.

Even 56 years after making his chart debut with Move It, with his then band The Drifters - later to become The Shadows - he continues to record and perform.


The perpetually youthful-looking star, now 73, has outlasted thousands of artists who have come and gone with his wholesome array of more than 130 pop hits including Summer Holiday, Wired For Sound and The Young Ones.


Sir Cliff's popularity was undimmed after his embrace of Christianity, setting him a world away from the wild behaviour of some rock stars, which appeared to have no visible effect on his colossal sales which have totalled more than 250 million records.


And "the Peter Pan of pop" could even claim to be a favourite of royalty, numbering among only a few celebrities who were invited to a tenth anniversary memorial service in August 2007 to mark the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.


Born Harry Webb in Lucknow, India, he moved to Calcutta and then when the country gained independence in 1947, he headed to Britain.


After landing a recording deal in 1958, he was marketed as the British answer to Elvis Presley, with a similarly sheened quiff, but the early rock and roll of his initial hits was toned down by the release of his first number one single Living Doll.


He also embarked on a film career including The Young Ones and Summer Holiday which made him the UK's biggest box office attraction in 1962 and 1963.


Even as Beatlemania took hold, Sir Cliff was a familiar feature of the charts, although the gaps between his number ones increased.


His conversion to Christianity took place in 1964 and he considered quitting the music business - particularly as a man who at one stage had been deemed "too sexy for TV" - but friends advised that he had no need to abandon his career.


He continued to record with The Shadows but also performed songs with a more religious feel and appeared at Billy Graham crusades.


In 1968 he became the UK's Eurovision Song Contest entrant, singing Congratulations, missing out on a win by a single point, but providing a hit across Europe and he returned to the competition again five years later with Power to All Our Friends which finished third.


He went on to have his own TV show, It's Cliff, but also found a new lease of life as a more credible rock artist in 1976 with a landmark album, I'm Nearly Famous, and the single Devil Woman, which became his first proper US hit.


Although he enjoyed a close friendship with the tennis player turned broadcaster Sue Barker, Sir Cliff never married.


By 1979 he had teamed up with producer Alan Tarney for his hit We Don't Talk Anymore, the biggest-selling single of his career. He became a figure of fun in anarchic BBC2 comedy The Young Ones - named after one of his hits - during the 1980s, but he graciously appeared with the stars of the show on a Comic Relief version of Living Doll.


Sir Cliff, who received his knighthood in 1995, devoted a number of years to getting his stage musical Heathcliff off the ground, in which he starred and which provided a chart hit with Misunderstood Man.


And the star, who has homes in Berkshire, Portugal and the Caribbean, led a celebrated singalong at a rain-sodden Wimbledon centre court the following year, leading the crowd with a performance which included Summer Holiday and Bachelor Boy.


His devoted fanbase swung into action in 1999 when Radio 2 failed to playlist his single Millennium Prayer, and the publicity surrounding the single gave him his biggest hit for nine years. It topped the charts although missed out on the hoped-for top slot over Christmas which he had achieved in 1988 and 1990 with Mistletoe And Wine and Saviour's Day.


His releases became less prolific as the 21st century dawned but Sir Cliff continued to be a popular live performer with fans often camping out to snap up tickets for his shows.


The strength of his appeal is still shown by his annual calendar making the best-seller lists each year, helped by the buff, tanned physique he has shown off in topless pictures in his 70s.

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