The singing legend is 80 today. It is over 60 years ago, in 1958, that Harry Webb was discovered, at the time lead singer of the Drifters and playing in the Regal Ballroom in Ripley. His name was changed to Cliff Richard, the surname Richard after Little Richard, the singer’s musical hero.
Norrie Paramor arranged Cliff’s debut recording session, providing him with the song Schoolboy Crush, but allowing him to record his own song for the B side. This was Move It, written on the 715 Green Line Bus on his way to a rehearsal at Cliff’s house, by Ian Samwell, guitarist with the Drifters. The B side recording became the A side and TV producer Jack Good, wanted Cliff to sing it on Oh Boy!, Cliff’s first TV appearance. The single went to No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart.
Cliff’s first No.1 hit was Living Doll with the Drifters new line up, Jet Harris, Tony Meehan, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch. The Drifters changed their name to The Shadows because of an American group of the same name. Travelling Light, I Love You and A Voice in The Wilderness followed among the No.1 hits for the talented rock and roll singer.
In 1959, Cliff made his movie debut with Serious Charge, but more notable ones followed, The Young Ones and Summer Holiday. This led to Cliff being named Britain’s number one cinema box office attraction in 1962 and 1963, even outdoing James Bond.
The Shadows split in 1968, and in that year he represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with Congratulations, coming second by one point, but subsequently became a No.1 hit. In 1976 Bruce Welch produced Cliff in an album to include Devil Woman and Miss You Nights, and in 1979 he recorded We Don’t Talk Anymore. In that year he again represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with Power To All Our Friends.
In 1986 his car was written off in an accident in torrential rain on the M4, but police called a cab, to enable the fortunately uninjured Cliff to perform in the musical Time. He achieved the Christmas No.1 in 1988 with Mistletoe and Wine and in 1990 the Christmas single Saviour’s Day, from the album From a Distance: The Event, became his 13th No.1.
In 1999 The Millennium Prayer went to No. 1 for three weeks. In 2004 The Shadows joined Sir Cliff on stage at The London Palladium. In 2009 the partnership between Sir Cliff and The Shadows finally came to an end following The Royal Variety Performance and their final UK tour, The Golden Anniversary Tour. In 2010 Sir Cliff performed in several concerts at The Royal Albert Hall to celebrate his 70th birthday, and in 2012 starred in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace.
In 2015 he celebrated his 75th Birthday with a tour across seven cities in the UK, including six nights at The Royal Albert Hall.
The philanthropist’s many contributions to charity have included a performance at the Arora Charity Ball in 2018 at the Intercontinental O2 Hotel, raising £1 million for the Royal Marsden Hospital and Macmillan Cancer Support. In 2019 he attended the Fans’ Diamond Ball in London, raising substantial funds for the Sir Cliff Richard Charitable Trust and the Caron Keating Foundation. He was made a Celebrity Ambassador at a star-studded Variety Children’s Charity Dinner. Cliff has created the Cliff Richard Charitable Trust and the Cliff Richard Tennis Foundation to support charities.
In 1980 the Queen awarded Cliff an OBE for services to music and charity, and in 1995 he was honoured with a Knight Bachelor for charitable services.
Over his career, he has sold 21 million singles, and has become the third best-selling artist behind The Beatles and Elvis Presley. He has delighted fans over the years, notably in 1996 when he led an impromptu singalong on Wimbledon Centre Court when rain stopped play.
Born in India, the family sailed to Tilbury in 1948 and lived in Carshalton, before moving to Hertfordshire. Harry Webb started work as a filing clerk for Atlas Lamps, and his millions of devoted fans are very delighted he decided to start singing with The Drifters, and entertaining us over the years.
Happy Birthday Sir Cliff, and Thank You!