Sir Cliff Richard (real name Harry Rodger Webb, born 14 October 1940 in Lucknow, India) is a singer and entertainer who has managed the feat of a British number one hit single in every decade from the 1950s to 1990s. 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 Hallyday 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 Francisco 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 homo.)
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.
He ended at #56 in One Hundred Greatest Britons.
Cliff Richard tropes include:
- An Aesop: He has a few songs which fit this trope. As one would expect, some are clearly religious in inspiration, and some are not (the 1971 single "Silvery Rain" is a Green Aesop).
- 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 Millennium Prayer", which is The Lord's Prayer set to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne". He also has a few songs whose religious meanings are veiled but detectable (e.g "The Day I Met Marie" - think about the title for a moment).
- 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.
- Covered Up: He did a cover of Marvin Hamlisch's "'Cause I Believe in Loving" from Bananas.
- Crossover: With The Young Ones for the the charity single "Livin' Doll" in 1986.
- Cunning Linguist: Being born in India, he has some knowledge of Indian languages, which he showed off when he appeared on The Kumars.
- Grief Song: "Hey Mr Dream Maker" is one of these. It hints that the person being mourned (who has a Gender-Blender Name, Josie/Josey) was Driven to Suicide ("cried a lot, had to go away ... didn't say much"). The song also implies that much time has passed, during which the narrator has chosen celibacy, and now, rather than seek a new lover, he's living in/living for a fantasy romance.
- Kavorka Man: The 1985 mini-hit "Heart User" imagines one of these pairing off with a Kavorka Woman.
- Last of His Kind: Cliff, Tommy Steele (who started out two years before Cliff), and Paul Anka are probably the very last rockstars of the fifties pre-Beatles era following Jerry Lee Lewis' death in 2022.
- Let's Duet: He has duetted with several big names, including David Bowie, Elton John, Olivia Newton-John and Lulu and believe it or not Janet Jackson, but the one everyone can hum is his hit Christmas collaboration with Van Morrison. His 2014 foray into the charts is a duet with equally venerable singing star Engelbert Humperdinck.
- Long-Runners: He debuted in the 1950s and is still performing to this day.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Always clean in costume.
- 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.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: He has two of them:
- 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.
- Cliff Richard also shares some similarities with Paul Anka. Both were Rock & Roll Teen Idols of the late '50s and early '60s, who later adopted an adult contemporary sound.
- White-Dwarf Starlet: The subject of his song “The Golden Days Are Over” from his Silver Album.