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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 14:46 GMT
Sir Cliff Richard: Evergreen entertainer
Sir Cliff Richard
Sir Cliff's career has spanned five decades
Sir Cliff Richard is being honoured with a musical based on his life, which opens to his fans in London on Wednesday. BBC News Online looks at his career.

He swears he has broken most of the Commandments. One of his fellow knights, Elton John, says they were both "legless" one night after knocking back too much wine, but that is about the extent of his debauchery.

He was born Harry Webb in Lucknow, India, in October 1940.

At 17, he made his screen debut as a juvenile delinquent in Serious Charge, complete with curly hair, leather jacket, swivelling hips and an imitation Elvis curling lip.

Cliff Richard and Sue Barker
Cliff and Sue - partners on the court, but not off
But Cliff was never travelling Elvis's road. For one thing, no sooner had Coronation Street's Minnie Caldwell called him "that chubby Cliff Richard" in 1964, than he adopted a sensible diet to which he has adhered ever since.

Cliff's lifestyle has largely eschewed bad behaviour since. He does 50 press ups and a has one meal a day instead.

He says he has not been drunk since 1960, in his self-confessed "wild days".

Committed Christian

A born-again Christian since he was 20, he has abstained from sex because he disagrees with pre-marital sexual relations.

Sir Cliff announced his commitment to Christianity at a Billy Graham crusade in 1966 and is moved to anger that "stars who debauch themselves, get addicted to drugs then kick them, get all the praise".

He has had a few "false alarms" when it comes to marriage, however.

"I've been in love... but marriage is a big commitment and being an artist consumes a great deal of time," he once said.

Sir Cliff Richard at the tennis
Sir Cliff (left) with John Major at the tennis

He shared a passion for tennis and Christianity with Sue Barker, he said: "We decided we didn't love each other enough to get married."

He has also said that in the early 1970s he was in love with Grease star Olivia Newton-John.

"At the time when I and many of us were in love with Olivia she was engaged to someone else," Cliff said.

"I'm afraid I lost the chance."

Rumours about his sexual orientation have abounded.

"I'm aware of the rumours, but I am not gay," he said in 1996.

His career, of course, has been a triumph, with hit singles spanning six decades, including 14 number ones. His film The Young Ones broke box office records when it was released.

He has sold more than 250 million albums, though to this day he has failed to crack the American market.

The Young Ones
Cliff teamed up with The Young Ones in 1986

His career has never strayed too far from middle of the road pop, but he did score a top 20 hit with a song written by two rather more hell-raising rock stars - Blue To Grey, a track from Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

The 1976 hit Devil Woman ("with evil on her mind") was the closest he got to a harder sound.

And few will forget the video for 1981's Wired for Sound, featuring a roller-skated Cliff wearing minuscule shorts.

Wimbledon serenade

He has proved he can laugh at his clean-cut image too - his collaboration with the cast of The Young Ones for Comic Relief's version of Living Doll may not have made him hip, but it did show a different side.

Singing in the rain at Wimbledon in 1996, he made a miserable day memorable by serenading a damp Centre Court crowd with backing vocals from the likes of Martina Navratilova.

When he played Heathcliff in a musical version of Wuthering Heights, his legion of fans thumbed their noses at the drama critics and guaranteed another commercial success.

Cliff and The Shadows
Cliff never sought rock and roll notoriety

It was the same story with his children's charity single Millennium Prayer, which topped the charts at the beginning of 2000 despite its initial exclusion from most radio station playlists.

In 2002 his latest release was available not in record stores but supermarkets - wine from his estate in Portugal went on sale at the Waitrose chain. Sir Cliff, though not a serious drinker, said he was fond of the odd glass.

There seems little chance of Cliff putting his feet up any time soon to enjoy his wine and his memories, though.

"The word retirement is not in my vocabulary," he says.

And as for the musical that honours him, his response has been "I wish I could be in it myself".

Sir Cliff uncorks new wine deal
23 May 02 |  Business
Sir Cliff delivers fans breakfast
23 Feb 01 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff admits youth jabs
13 Oct 00 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff backs Christian radio bid
11 Jan 00 |  Entertainment

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