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Friday, 13 October, 2000, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Sir Cliff Richard: Sweet 60
Sir Cliff Richard
Cliff Richard, known to many as the Peter Pan of pop, celebrates his 60th birthday on Saturday.

BBC News Online looks back on the life and career of one of Britain's most enduring talents

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.

As Sir Cliff Richard celebrates his 60th birthday, his life appears, by most people's standards, to be without a blemish.

Sir Cliff Richard
Euro pop: Sir Cliff at the Eurovision song contest
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.

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.

The easy way for idols to ensure enduring worship is to die young; but Cliff's is altogether a more exacting achievement.

He looks in fantastic shape, a testament to his daily regime of one meal and 50 press-ups and a lifetime of clean living.


There's no room in my life for drugs and sex

Sir Cliff Richard

He "enjoys the odd glass of wine", but says he has been drunk only three times in his life, once more than he has had sex - in 1960 when he was still in his "wild" phase.

But soon after, Jesus came into his life, and ever since he has abstained because he disagrees with pre-marital sexual relations.

Why has he not married? "Well, I've had a few false alarms," he says.

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

There have been romances, but Sir Cliff described his relationship with Una Stubbs as "not an 'affair' affair" . Although 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."

Sir Cliff Richard
Heathcliff was a favourite with the fans if not the critics
She married a policeman and the couple now live near Cliff's home at Weybridge in Surrey.

For those with another theory about why he has never married, he was has set the record straight .

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

But he might not have stayed a bachelor boy if he had not been too late to win the heart of singer 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."

In 1972, Olivia broke off her engagement (to Shadows guitarist Bruce Welch), but with his friend devastated by the break-up, Cliff was too decent to try to catch Olivia on the rebound. She soon moved to California with a new boyfriend and later married another man.

Cliff's life story
Born Harry Webb, Lucknow, India on October 14 1940
Had first hit with Move It in 1958
Found God at the age of 20
Represented UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1968 and 1973
Knighted in 1995

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".

Much of his leisure time is spent on the tennis court. He is an avid player and since it was established in 1991, The Cliff Richard Tennis Foundation has encouraged thousands of primary schools to introduce the sport.

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, and he managed to overcome a number of potential hazards.

Singing in the rain at Wimbledon
Singing in the rain at Wimbledon
He emerged unscathed from coming second in the Eurovision Song Contest, with "Congratulations" easily outstripping sales of the winning song.

Singing in the rain at Wimbledon, he made a miserable day memorable by serenading a damp Centre Court crowd backed by stars like 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.

And it was the same story with his children's charity single of dubious taste, Millennium Prayer, which topped the charts despite its initial exclusion from most radio station playlists.

Cliff Richard's assistant, Roger Bruce, says: "Cliff has the perception to know when something works."

Love him or loathe him, it seems age shall not weary Sir Cliff. "The word retirement is not in my vocabulary,"
Sir Cliff Richard
Euro pop: Sir Cliff at the Eurovision song contest
he says.

See also:

23 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Sir Cliff still a bachelor boy
27 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Sir Cliff's arts honour
11 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Sir Cliff backs Christian radio bid
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