Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Monday, 29 November, 1999, 16:53 GMT
Cliff Richard: Peter Pan or lost boy?
Cliff on Morecombe and wise Sir Cliff: From rock 'n' roll's rebel to family entertainer

Sir Cliff Richard's singing career has spanned more than four decades, enough time for the man once dubbed a "crude exhibitionist" by the NME to be written off by some in the industry as too "nice" to make the charts.

Born in India 59 years ago, Harry Roger Webb has become one of the UK's most consistently successful pop stars, selling more than 250m records worldwide.

Along with his backing group the Drifters - later changed to the Shadows, to avoid confusion with the US soul group - Richard stormed the UK charts in the late 1950s.

Cliff The Peter Pan of Pop or the critics' punchbag?
With the Elvis-like hit Move It, the teenage Richard unseated Marty Wilde as Britain's reigning rock 'n' roll idol, his raunchy stage act outraging the press and parents up and down the land.

Richard was quick to consolidate his fame - taking roles in the gritty film Serious Charge. The 1959 movie, also called Immoral Charge, took on the taboo subject of homosexuality.

The lead in Expresso Bongo followed in 1960, with roles in The Young Ones and Summer Holiday taking the young star more into the middle ground of musical and cinematic tastes.

With their cast of wholesome regulars - including Una Stubbs, Melvyn Hayes and the Shadows - and their full quota of catchy pop songs, these films made Richard a firm family favourite.

Eurovision Eurovision: Congratulations, on coming second
The star's string of top 10 hits continued through the turbulent 1960s. His conversion to Christianity in 1966 spurred him on in the hope that pop records could help him express his faith.

Congratulations, his entry for the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest, could only manage second place, but became one of the year's top sellers in the UK.

Another Eurovision entry in 1973, Power To All Our Friends, was a highpoint in an otherwise barren patch for Richard's acting and singing career.

Largely dismissed, the star staged a remarkable return to form with the 1976 best-seller I'm Nearly Famous, an album containing the hit Devil Woman.

Cliff 1973 The early 1970s saw Cliff go out of fashion
By 1979, Richard had climbed back to the top of the chart with We Don't Talk Anymore, his first UK No 1 for a decade and one of his few releases to dent the US charts.

In the 1980s the tally of hits continued to mount, thanks to a string of duets with the likes of Van Morrison, Elton John and Sarah Brightman.

Sadly, while many of his contemporaries have become revered elder statesmen - and in the case of Tom Jones acquired cult status - Sir Cliff has fallen from favour with the critics.

Having scored a modest success in the 1980s West End musical Time, in 1996 Richard decided to take on the role of Heathcliff in a musical version Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff Sir Cliff too old for Heathcliff?
Some 20 years older than the character, Richards was savaged by some for taking on the role.

"For years people have been telling me how old I look. I'm the perfect person to play a 38-year-old," he told his critics.

The clean-living, tennis-playing bachelor, who reportedly adheres to a strict diet, has earned the grudging title - The Peter Pan of Pop.

Despite his youthful looks and a staunch fan base, which sees him shift more than one million records each year, Richard has struggled for airplay in recent years.

Claiming that ageism was stopping radio stations playing his music, the star distributed a version of single Can't Keep This Feeling In under a false name.

The "Black Knight" remix - named after the song's producer and Richard's 1995 knighthood - found its way onto the air where the original had failed.

Sir Cliff, thought to be worth 50m, has again confounded his critics with Millennium Prayer. The charity disc has become his 14th No 1 despite not making the radio playlists.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

Sir Cliff Richard
Hero or zero? Your verdict on the pop veteran

See also:
28 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff tops the charts

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories