Sir Cliff Richard (real name Harry Webb, 1940-) is a singer and entertainer who has managed the feat of a British number one hit single in every decade from the 1950s
. One of the most enduring icons of British showbusiness, Cliff began his career billed as England's answer to Elvis Presley
, and indeed was a cutting edge figure in the Rock & Roll
era who made some genuinely good memorable music in that idiom. His hit "Move It" is regarded as the first significant British Rock & Roll
song. He fronted a band called the Shadows, who after he went solo, re-invented themselves with some success as an instrumental guitar group. Outshone in the 1960s
by The Beatles
and other beat groups, his career never went belly-up, and he reinvented himself with some success as a TV presenter and celebrity. Music never went away, and he remains popular as a middle-of-the-road singer, although possibly as un-known outside Britain as Johnny Halliday
is outside France.
Cliff has in fact had moderate success in the USA, but unfortunately not enough to establish him as a household name there. In his career he has had eight US Top 40 singles, including the million-selling Devil Woman
, and We Don't Talk Anymore
, the latter becoming the first to reach the Hot 100's top 40 in the 1980s by a singer who had been in the Billboard top 40 in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
In Europe, Sir Cliff Richard has represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest twice. In 1968, he finished second with Congratulations
- missing out to Spain's Massiel and her song La La La La. (There is a suspicion that the politicking for which Eurovision is notorious ensured he missed out on the top slot here: Spanish dictator General Franco, in the middle of a row over Gibaltrar, is said to have personally intervened to ensure Spain's vote did not go to the UK). In 1973, Cliff came third with Power To All Our Friends
Outside music, Cliff is probably best known for his intense evangelical Christian faith, and the fact that for a rock singer, he leads a squeaky-clean life involving self-imposed celibacy. This, and the palpable absence of a Lady Richard, has led some to question his sexuality, although this is unfair: celibacy is rare, but is a genuine vocation and lifestyle choice which does not imply gayness. (By definition, in fact, to be celibate precludes any
form of active sexual expresssion, hetero or
As a tax exile from Britain, it has been remarked that as a Christian he knows how to give unto God what is God's, but perhaps requires assistance with giving unto Caesar that which is Caesar's.
His commitment to Christianity is both ridiculed and grudgingly admired - he really does appear to live as he preaches (except perhaps in the matter of shelling out tax) - and he has a legion of devoted fans, who, as with Barry Manilow
(a singer in the same ilk) tend to be middle-aged and female.
Cliff Richard tropes include:
- Christian Rock: He's done a few Christian recordings (often covers of gospel songs) one of was a duet with Van Morrison, and including "The Millenium Prayer", the 1999 Christmas Number One, which is The Lord's Prayer set to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne".
- Christmas Songs: Sir Cliff has recorded his share of both secular and religious Christmas music, and in fact he's the last artist to occupy the Christmas number one slot with a song that actually has Christian themes.
- Cunning Linguist: Being born in India, he has some knowledge of Indian languages, which he showed off when he appeared on The Kumars.
- Let's Duet: He has duetted with several big names, including David Bowie and Lulu, but the one everyone can hum is his hit Christmas collaboration with Van Morrison.
- His current (March 2014) foray into the charts is a duet with equally venerable singing star Englebert Humperdinck. (Not the German orga composer: the lounge singer who earned Britain nul points in the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest.)
- The Show Must Go On: Famously he was once in the spectator stands at Wimbledon when rain started bucketing down, calling off the match; he promptly entertained the crowd with an impromptu concert. Expect this to be referenced whenever he appears on a show.
- Something Completely Different: Has reinvented himself several times over the years, such as his recent brass instruments-themed album.
- Trans Atlantic Equivalent: He wasn't necessarily the first British answer to Elvis Presley (that was probably Tommy Steele a few years before him) but he was definitely the most successful.