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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 12:11 GMT


Sir Cliff's Millennium hit

Snubbed: Sir Cliff was not considered to have broad enough appeal

Pop legend Sir Cliff Richard looks set to have a top five hit with his latest single The Millennium Prayer, despite struggling to get airplay for the charity song.

Leaked industry figures show the track, which was left off the playlists of most pop music radio stations, is currently the third best-selling single in the UK.

[ image: Outsold: Sir Cliff steps ahead of Geri Halliwell's former number one]
Outsold: Sir Cliff steps ahead of Geri Halliwell's former number one
The song, which sets the words of The Lord's Prayer to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, has outsold tracks by Geri Halliwell and US stars Will Smith and Lauryn Hill.

Only chart-topper Robbie Williams and dance act Wamdue Project are ahead of Sir Cliff according to the sales figures.

The 59-year-old star said he was "delighted" with the news.

"The response and support from the public has been beyond my wildest dreams," he told the Daily Mail.

"I hope in some small way to offer an anthem for us all as we leave this millennium and look forward to the next," he added.

Sir Cliff fans were outraged earlier this month when BBC Radio 2 failed to include the song on its recommended list of singles for DJs to play.

The station claimed the single did not have 'broad enough appeal'.

London's Capital Radio, the largest commercial radio station, also failed to recommend the song for either its main network or for Capital Gold.

[ image: The Millennium Prayer will be Sir Cliff's 132nd hit in 41 years]
The Millennium Prayer will be Sir Cliff's 132nd hit in 41 years
Sir Cliff, a devout Christian who has been in the music business for more than 40 years, has spoken previously of his struggle for radio airplay.

"Radio stations make the assumption that kids don't want to hear Cliff Richard that much.

Their motives in removing me from playlists have nothing to do with my music and everything to do with ageism," he added.

But Sir Cliff has a very strong fan base and 10 million people tuned in to watch his ITV special An Audience With Cliff Richard last Saturday.

Christine Whitehead co-ordinator of the Cliff Richard fan clubs added: "Everyone I have spoken to, whether they be Sir Cliff fans or not, have liked this single. I am so pleased that it has done so well."

Although early sales are not guaranteed to carry through to the official chart on Sunday, they give a good indication of the song's popularity.

Music retailers have also reported a brisk trade in the single, which benefits the charity Children's Promise.

Gennaro Castaldo of music retailer HMV said: "It just shows that you can never write Cliff off. He's got a tremendous fan-base and he's still able to achieve chart success."

His high chart entry will also mean airplay on influential stations like Radio 1 which will play the song as part of its Top 40 countdown on Sunday evening.

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