British pop star and actor, with a prolific career spanning over 40 years
Often maligned by the British pop radio stations Cliff Richard's own particular style has outlasted, or adapted to, every musical trend since the Rock and Roll years of the late 1950s. He is good looking and has an easy-going but dynamic charm which has endeared him to his fans for over four decades. Despite being 'knocked' by DJs, his records continue to make it into the UK pop charts.
Cliff Richard, real name Harry Webb, was born in India on October 14th 1940. He moved to England at the age of 8 and at school was always interested in music and drama, appearing in school productions and joining amateur bands which performed at parties and local clubs.
By 1957 a love of Elvis Presley saw Cliff joining the Dick Teague Skiffle Group, and then a few months later he formed his own band, originally called The Drifters, but renamed in 1959 to The Shadows (to avoid confusion with the American R&B group, the Drifters). It was at this stage that Cliff was spotted by an agent, who suggested he change his name, and his career was launched. His first record was a ballad, 'Schoolboy Crush' but it was a more up-beat, American sound, 'Move It', followed by 'Living Doll' that really put Cliff and The Shadows on the map.
At this time Cliff's career progressed into film with the making of the drama Serious Charge. This was a non-musical and somewhat controversial film as it dealt with the subject of homosexual blackmail. A series of very successful musical films followed, including Expresso Bongo (1960), The Young Ones (1961) and Summer Holiday (1963) and a whole succession of hit singles emerged at the same time. By mid 1961 he had earned two Golden Discs for records selling over a million copies.
In 1965 Cliff was voted the World's Top Male Singer by the New Musical Express, despite their assertions a few years earlier that his 'violent hip swinging' and 'crude exhibitionism' was 'indecent' and 'vulgar'. But despite all his fame and fortune, it seemed that something was missing and it was around this time that Christianity became an important force in his life. In 1966 Cliff appeared onstage with the evangelist Billy Graham, and there was much speculation that he would end his career in the music business and become a clergyman. However, he stuck with pop music, but now he also played regular Gospel concerts and appeared on many religious TV programmes openly denouncing sex and drugs which had become synonymous with the rock and roll lifestyle. This new clean-cut image damaged his reputation with many rock fans and is possibly one of the reasons why he is still 'disliked' by certain people today, but it did little to dent his mainstream popularity and he continues to be an icon in British entertainment.
Hit albums and singles followed one after another, and in 1968 Cliff came second in the Eurovision Song Contest with 'Congratulations' winning a fifth Gold Disc. The early 70s saw a slight lull in his career with fewer chart successes, but his concerts continued to sell out world-wide, such was his huge fan base, and by 1976 he was topping the charts again with 'Miss You Nights' and 'Devil Woman'.
The 1980s saw a slight change of direction with more successes, this time as a duettist collaborating with the likes of Elton John, Van Morrisson, Janet Jackson, Sarah Brightman and Phil Everly. A less serious collaboration, leading to yet another number one hit single, was with the TV comedy quartet, The Young Ones, when they made a parody of Cliff's earlier hits, 'The Young Ones' and 'Living Doll', to raise money for Comic Relief.
Cliff Richard's success story continues through the 90s, including his taking the leading role in the musical Heathcliffe. This broke box office records for ticket sales, and he performed in front of an estimated half a million people during the run of the show. Later the video of Heathcliffe ran for eight weeks at the top of the video charts and sold over 400,000 copies. Cliff rounded off the 90s, indeed the millennium, with his fourteenth and final (so far) number one hit single, 'The Millennium Prayer', which was the words of The Lord's Prayer sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. Yet again this was slighted by the press as being contrived and released just to make money, but Cliff denied this, saying it was a religious message released for a significant Christian anniversary and once again his fans showed they were more than willing to pay the price.
Cliff Richard was knighted by the Queen for his services to popular music in May 1995. He shows no sign of retiring.
Cliff Richard's discography is far too long to reproduce here (ok, I admit it, I'm lazy!). I suggest that anyone who wants to see it goes to one of the many Cliff Richard web sites, eg http://www.cliffrichard.org/