He has had limited success outside the UK, but (Sir) Cliff Richard is almost a legend in the UK, like Madonna and Elvis he is widely recognised by just one name – Cliff.
Cliff Richard was born Harry Webb in Lucknow India in 1940 and enjoyed his first chart success in 1958 with ‘Move it’ – described by John Lennon as the first British Rock and Roll record. His backing band were initially called ‘The Drifters’ but they changed it to ‘The Shadows’ to avoid confusion with the American vocal group.
Cliff and the Shadows – as they became known – had a string of hits in the late fifties and early sixties, and made several successful musical films – including ‘The Young Ones’ and ‘Summer Holiday”; the latter, which featured the group driving a modified double-decker bus to Greece is a classic of its (admittedly small) genre and is often affectionately parodied.
‘The Young Ones’ also gave its name to the anarchic TV series that starred Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer. They went on to cover one of Cliff’s hits ‘Living Doll’ for charity and Cliff appeared on both the record and accompanying video.
The Shadows had a number of instrumental hits in their own right in the early sixties, including ‘FBI’, ‘Apache’ and ‘Wonderful Land’. The playing style of Hank Marvin, the Shadows lead guitarist is distinctive and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits has said that it was because of Hank Marvin that he started to play guitar.
Cliff and the Shadows separated in the mid sixties, but remained on good terms, recently reforming to perform a tour together. Cliff went on to become an all round entertainer, with popular TV shows and continuing his pop career. He has enjoyed chart success in every decade since the 1950’s and enjoyed number one hits in every decade until the 1990’s – a number one since 2000 has thus far eluded him.
Cliff became a vocal and committed Christian in the early sixties and made a film ‘Two a Penny’ for the evangelist Billy Graham, while this committed Christianity was a cause for comment it did not adversely affect Cliff’s career.
To date Cliff has enjoyed well over a hundred chart successes in the UK, has sold over 230 million records and is second only to Elvis in terms of the number of weeks his records have spent in the UK charts.
In recent years Cliff has fallen out of favour with the mainstream media, the BBC failing to promote any of his new material, but his fan-base remains loyal and he is still immensely popular in the UK.
Cliff was knighted in 1995, the first ‘pop’ star to enjoy this honour and, despite high profile relationships in the past with singer Olivia Newton-John and tennis player Sue Barker, he has never married, truly a ‘Bachelor Boy’.
He is keen on tennis, both as a player and spectator, and famously entertained the crowds at Wimbledon in 1996 with an impromptu concert when play was stopped by rain.