It's wonderful to be going on TV for the first time, but I feel so nervous that I don't know what to do. I shaved my sideburns off last night... Jack Good said it would make me look more original.— NME, September 1958
The Webb family lived in a modest home in Maqbara, near the main shopping centre of Hazratganj. Dorothy's mother served as the dormitory matron at the La Martiniere Girls' School. Richard has three sisters, Joan, Jacqui and Donna (1942-2016).
In 1948, following Indian independence, the family embarked on a three-week sea voyage to Tilbury, Essex, England aboard the SS Ranchi. The Webbs moved from comparative wealth in India, where they lived in a company-supplied flat at Howrah near Calcutta, to a semi-detached house in Carshalton. Harry Webb attended a local primary school, Stanley Park Juniors, in Carshalton. In 1949 his father obtained employment in the credit control office of Thorn Electrical Industries and the family moved in with other relatives in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, where he attended Kings Road Junior Mixed Infants School until a three-bedroom council house in Cheshunt was allocated to them in 1950, at 12 Hargreaves Close.
Harry Webb became lead singer of a rock and roll group, the Drifters (not to be confused with the US group of the same name). The 1950s Entrepreneur Harry Greatorex wanted the up-and-coming rock 'n' roll singer to change from his real name of Harry Webb. The name Cliff was adopted as it sounded like "cliff face", which suggested "Rock". It was "Move It" Writer Ian Samwell who suggested the surname "Richard" as a tribute to Webb's musical hero Little Richard.
He then attended Cheshunt Secondary Modern School from 1952 to 1957. (The school was later renamed Riversmead School before being rebuilt and renamed Bishopslea School). As a member of the top stream, he stayed on beyond the minimum leaving age to take GCE Ordinary Level examinations and gained a pass in English literature. He then started work as a filing clerk for Atlas Lamps. A development of retirement flats, Cliff Richard Court, has been named after him in Cheshunt.
Harry Webb became interested in skiffle. His father bought him a guitar at 16 and he formed the Quintones vocal group in 1957, before singing in the Dick Teague Skiffle Group.
In the early days, Richard was marketed as the British equivalent of Elvis Presley. Like previous British rockers such as Tommy Steele and Marty Wilde, Richard adopted Presley-like dress and hairstyle. In performance he struck a pose of rock attitude, rarely smiling or looking at the audience or camera. His late 1958 and early 1959 follow-up singles, "High Class Baby" and "Livin' Lovin' Doll", were followed by "Mean Streak", which carried a rocker's sense of speed and passion, and Lionel Bart's "Living Doll".
Richard and the Shadows appeared in six feature films including a debut in the 1959 film Serious Charge but most notably in The Young Ones, Summer Holiday, Wonderful Life, and Finders Keepers. These films created their own genre, known as the "Cliff Richard musical", and led to Richard being named the No. 1 cinema box office attraction in Britain for both 1962 and 1963, beating that of even James Bond. The title song of The Young Ones became his biggest-selling single in the United Kingdom, selling over one million copies in the UK. The irreverent 1980s TV sitcom The Young Ones took its name from Richard's 1962 film. In mid-1963, Cliff and the Shadows appeared for a season in Blackpool, where Richard had his portrait modelled by Victor Heyfron.
At the age of 22, a year after his relationship with Delia Wicks ended, Richard had a brief romance with the Actress Una Stubbs. Later in the 1960s, Richard considered marriage to the Dancer Jackie Irving. Richard described Irving as "utterly beautiful" and says for a time they were "inseparable". Irving went on to marry Adam Faith.
Richard is a lifelong bachelor. In a three-page letter written in October 1961 to "his first serious girlfriend", Australian Dancer Delia Wicks, made public in April 2010 after her death from cancer, Richard wrote, "Being a pop singer I have to give up one priceless thing – the right to any lasting relationship with any special girl. I've just had to make, probably, one of the biggest decisions I'm ever going to make and I'm hoping that it won't hurt you too much." The couple had been dating for 18 months. In the letter he goes on to say, "I couldn't give up my career, besides the fact that my mother and sisters, since my father's death, rely on me completely. I have showbiz in my blood now and I would be lost without it." Richard urged her to "find someone who is free to love you as you deserve to be loved" and who "is able to marry you".
Typically, the Shadows closed the first half of the show with a 30-minute set of their own, then backed Richard on his show-closing 45-minute stint as exemplified by the retrospective CD album release of Live at the ABC Kingston 1962. Tony Meehan and Jet Harris left the group in 1961 and 1962 respectively and later had their own chart successes for Decca. The Shadows added bass players Brian Locking (1962–63) and then John Rostill (1963–68) and took on Brian Bennett permanently on drums.
As with the other existing rock acts in Britain, Richard's career was affected by the advent of the Beatles and the Mersey sound in 1963 and 1964. He continued to have hits in the charts throughout the 1960s, though not at the level that he had enjoyed before. Nor did doors open to him in the US market; he was not considered part of the British Invasion, and despite four Hot 100 hits (including the top 25 "It's All in the Game") between August 1963 and August 1964, the American public had little awareness of him.
Although baptised as an Anglican, Richard did not practise the faith in his early years. In 1964, he became an active Christian and his faith has become an important aspect of his life. Standing up publicly as a Christian affected his career in several ways. Initially, he believed that he should quit rock 'n' roll, feeling he could no longer be the rocker who had been called a "crude exhibitionist" and "too sexy for TV". Richard intended at first to "reform his ways" and become a Teacher, but Christian friends advised him not to abandon his career just because he had become an active Christian. Soon after, Richard re-emerged, performing with Christian groups and recording some Christian material. He still recorded secular songs with the Shadows, but devoted a lot of his time to Christian work, including appearances with the Billy Graham crusades. As time progressed, Richard balanced his faith and work, enabling him to remain one of the most popular Singers in Britain as well as one of its best-known Christians.
Richard's 1965 UK No. 12 hit "On My Word" ended a run of 23 consecutive top ten UK hits between "A Voice in the Wilderness" in 1960 to "The Minute You're Gone" in 1965, which, to date, is still a record number of consecutive top ten UK hits for a male Artist. Richard continued having international hits, including 1967's "The Day I Met Marie", which reached No. 10 in the UK Singles Chart and No. 5 in the Australian charts.
Since March 1966, Richard has followed the practice of giving away at least a tenth of his income to charity. Richard has stated that two biblical principles have guided him in how to use his money. He said: "Firstly, it was the love of money (not money itself) that was the root of all evil. Secondly, to be good and responsible stewards of what was entrusted to us." In 1990, Richard said: "Those of us who have something to offer have to be prepared to give all the time."
Richard acted in the 1967 film Two a Penny, released by Billy Graham's World Wide Pictures, in which he played Jamie Hopkins, a young man who gets involved in drug dealing while questioning his life after his girlfriend changes her attitude. He released the live album Cliff in Japan in 1967.
After the Shadows split in 1968, Richard continued to record.
During the 1970s, Richard took part in several television shows and fronted his own show It's Cliff Richard from 1970–1976. It starred Olivia Newton-John, Hank Marvin and Una Stubbs, and included A Song for Europe. He began 1970 by appearing live on the BBC's review of the sixties music scene, Pop Go The Sixties, which was broadcast across Britain and Europe on 31 December 1969. He performed "Bachelor Boy" with the Shadows and "Congratulations" solo. In 1972, he made a short BBC television comedy film called The Case with appearances from comedians and his first ever duets with a woman—Newton-John. He went on to release a double live album, Cliff Live in Japan 1972, which featured Newton-John.
Richard often declines discussion about close relationships and when asked about suggestions that he may be homosexual has stated categorically that he is not. When the suggestions were first put to him in the late 1970s, Richard responded by saying: "It's untrue. People are very unfair with their criticism and their judgements. I've had girlfriends. But people seem to think that if a bloke doesn't sleep around he must be gay. Marriage is a very special thing to me. I'm certainly not going to do it just to make other people feel satisfied." In 1986, Richard said that rumours about him being homosexual had previously been "very painful" to him.
In 1971, Richard was a leading supporter of the Nationwide Festival of Light, a movement formed by British Christians who were concerned about the development of the permissive society. Richard joined public figures such as Malcolm Muggeridge, Mary Whitehouse and Bishop Trevor Huddleston to demonstrate in London "for love and family life, against pornography and moral pollution". Muggeridge criticized the media as being "largely in the hands of those who for one reason or another favour the present Gadarene slide into decadence and Godlessness."
In 1973, he sang the British Eurovision entry "Power to All Our Friends;" the song finished third, close behind Luxembourg's "Tu Te Reconnaîtras" and Spain's "Eres Tú." This time, Richard took Valium to overcome his nerves and his manager was almost unable to wake him for the performance. Richard also hosted the BBC's qualifying heat for the Eurovision Song Contest, A Song for Europe, in 1970, 1971 and 1972 as part of his BBCTV variety series. He presented the Eurovision Song Contest Previews for the BBC in 1971 and 1972.
In 1975, he released the single "Honky Tonk Angel," produced by Hank Marvin and John Farrar, oblivious to its connotations or hidden meanings. As soon as he was notified that a "honky-tonk angel" was southern US slang for a prostitute, the horrified Richard ordered EMI to withdraw it and refused to promote it despite making a video for it. EMI agreed to his demand despite positive sales. About 1,000 copies are known to exist on vinyl.
Notwithstanding this, Richard continued to release albums with contemporary Christian music content in parallel with his rock and pop albums, for example: Small Corners from 1978 contained the single "Yes He Lives". On 31 December 1976, he performed his latest single, "Hey, Mr. Dream Maker", on BBC1's A Jubilee of Music, celebrating British pop music for Queen Elizabeth II's impending Silver Jubilee.
With "We Don't Talk Anymore" in 1979, Richard finally began to receive some extended success in the United States to follow on from the success of "Devil Woman" in 1976. In 1980, "Carrie" broke into the US top 40, followed by "Dreamin'", which reached No. 10. His 1980 duet "Suddenly" with Olivia Newton-John, from the film Xanadu, peaked at No. 20, followed by "A Little in Love" (No. 17) and "Daddy's Home" (No. 23) in 1981. Ironically, after many years of limited success in the US, three of his singles simultaneously charted on the last Hot 100 of 1980 ("A Little In Love", "Dreamin'", and "Suddenly").
In the 1980s, Richard considered asking Sue Barker, a former French Open tennis champion and Wimbledon semi-finalist, if she would agree to marry him. In 2008, Richard said of his relationship with Barker: "I seriously contemplated asking her to marry me, but in the end I realised that I didn't love her quite enough to commit the rest of my life to her."
In 1981, the single "Wired for Sound" hit No. 4 in the UK and also became Richard's biggest hit in Australia since the early 1960s. To finish the year, "Daddy's Home" hit No. 2 in the UK. On the singles chart, Richard was having his most consistent period of top twenty hits since the mid-1960s. He also was amassing a string of top ten albums, including I'm No Hero, Wired for Sound, Now You See Me, Now You Don't, a live album he recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra titled Dressed for the Occasion, and Silver, marking his 25th year in show Business in 1983.
Although he has never married, Richard has rarely lived alone. For many years he shared his main home with his charity and promotion schedules manager, Bill Latham, and Latham's mother. In 1982, Richard described them as his "second family". Latham's girlfriend, Jill, also lived at the house in Weybridge, Surrey, with them for a time. In 1993, Bill Latham said of Richard's bachelor status: "His freedom has meant that he has been able to do much more than if he had a family. He always goes the extra mile. If he was to have a relationship, he would give it everything. So because his commitments have been his career, his faith, and more latterly, tennis, he has given himself wholeheartedly to those three activities."
In 1986, after Richard's romance with Barker had ended and she began dating tennis player Stephen Shaw, Richard said that he was still a friend of Barker. He said: "We have a mutual respect for each other and that means a lot to me."
In 1988, Richard's nephew Philip Harrison spent the first four months of his life in a children's hospital suffering from serious breathing problems. Richard later helped to raise money for the hospital in east London and said that his nephew "had a terrible time but the hospital saved his life."
Also in 1989, Richard received the Brits highest award: "The Outstanding Contribution award". In June, he filled London's Wembley Stadium for two nights with a spectacular titled "The Event" in front of a combined audience of 144,000 people.
In late 1990s, Richard and former EMI UK managing Director Clive Black established the record label "Blacknight". In 1998, Richard demonstrated that radio stations were refusing to play his music when he released a dance remix of his forthcoming single "Can't Keep This Feeling In" on a white label using the alias Blacknight. The single was featured on playlists until the true Artist was revealed. Richard then released the single under his own name as the lead single for his album Real as I Wanna Be, with each reaching No. 10 in the UK on their respective charts.
Richard has also supported numerous UK charities over many years through the Cliff Richard Charitable Trust, both through donations and by making personal visits to schools, churches, hospitals and homes for special needs children. Richard's passion for tennis, which was encouraged by his former girlfriend Sue Barker, also led him in 1991 to establish the Cliff Richard Tennis Foundation. The charity has encouraged thousands of primary schools in the UK to introduce the sport, with over 200,000 children taking part in the tennis sessions which tour the country. The Foundation has since become part of the charitable wing of the Lawn Tennis Association.
When asked in 1992 if he had ever considered the possibility that he might be gay, he responded: "No." Richard said: "Even if I got married tomorrow there would be a group of people who would believe what they wanted to believe. All that counts is what your family and friends know and they all trust and respect me. What the people outside think, I have no control over." Later in 1996, Richard said: "I'm aware of the rumours, but I am not gay." In 1997, he said: "People who are single shouldn't have to be second-class citizens – we needn't be embarrassed or feel guilty about it, we all have a role to play."
On 17 June 1995, Richard was appointed a Knight Bachelor (and invested on 25 October 1995) and became the first rock star to be so honoured (Bob Geldof had received his honorary knighthood nine years earlier).
In 1996, he led the Wimbledon Centre Court crowd in singing during a rain delay when asked by Wimbledon officials to entertain the crowd.
In 1998, Chris Evans, the then breakfast show host on Virgin Radio, vowed he would never again play a record by Richard, stating that he was "too old". In June 2004, British disc jockey Tony Blackburn was suspended from his radio job at Classic Gold Digital for playing records by Richard against station policy. The head of programmes, Paul Baker, sent an e-mail to Blackburn stating that Richard "doesn't match our brand values. He's not on the playlist, and you must stop playing him." On Blackburn's next morning breakfast show, he read a print-out of the e-mail live on air to the show's 400,000 listeners and went on to play two songs by Richard. Classic Gold managing Director John Baish later confirmed Blackburn's suspension from the show.
Richard said that his faith in God was tested in 1999 after the murder of his close friend, the British television presenter Jill Dando. He said: "I was really angry with God. It shook me rigid that someone as beautiful, talented and harmless could have been killed." Richard said that Dando had many likeable qualities and described her as "a very genuine person". He said of Dando's murder: "It is very difficult to understand and I find it all very confusing." He attended her funeral in May 1999 in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.
Richard has spoken of his friendship with John McElynn, an American former missionary whom he met in 2001 on a visit to New York. In 2008, Richard said: "John now spends most of his time looking after my properties, which means I don't have to. John and I have over time struck up a close friendship. He has also become a companion, which is great because I don't like living alone, even now."
In an interview with David Frost in 2002, Richard said that his many good friends have prevented him from feeling lonely and he has always got someone he can talk to. Richard has been a family friend of the Northern Irish broadcaster Gloria Hunniford for over 40 years. When Hunniford's daughter Caron Keating was diagnosed with breast cancer and chose to keep her illness private from the public, Richard was among a small close circle of friends who knew of Keating's condition. When Keating died in April 2004, Richard attended her funeral in Kent and performed his song "Miss You Nights" in tribute to her.
On 14 June 2004, Richard joined the Shadows on-stage at the London Palladium. The Shadows had decided to re-form for another tour of the UK. It was not to be their last tour together though, as they would re-form once again for a final tour five years later in 2009.
In 2006, Richard received a Portuguese Order in which he was appointed Commander of the Order of Prince Henry (ComIH), this in recognition of his 40 years of personal and Business involvement in that country. Richard finished No. 56 in the 2002 100 Greatest Britons list, sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public.
Richard has openly complained about the lack of commercial support he receives from radio stations and record labels. He spoke about this on The Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV in December 2007, pointing out that while new bands needed airplay for promotion and sales, long-established artists such as himself also relied upon airplay for the same reasons. He also noted that 1980s radio stations did play his records and that this went some way to help sales and maintain his media presence. In the BBC Radio 2 documentary Cliff – Take Another Look, he pointed out that many documentaries charting the history of British music (e.g. I'm in a Rock 'n' Roll Band!) fail to mention him (or the Shadows).
Richard was involved in a campaign to extend copyright on sound recordings from 50 to 95 years, and extend the number of years on which a musician can receive royalties. The campaign was initially unsuccessful and the copyright on many of Richard's early recordings expired in 2008.
In 2009, the British media reported on a growing friendship between Richard and Cilla Black. The Daily Telegraph said that Richard and Black looked at properties together in Miami and were regularly seen together in Barbados, where they both owned villas. Richard and Black reportedly enjoyed each other's company dining together in Marbella and watching tennis in the Royal Box at Wimbledon. After Black died in August 2015, Richard described her as "incredibly gifted" and "full of heart". He said: "She was a very special person, and I have lost a very wonderful friend, I will miss her dearly." Richard performed the song "Faithful One" in tribute to Black at her funeral in Liverpool.
In 2010, Richard confirmed that he is no longer a resident of the United Kingdom and had been granted citizenship by Barbados. He said: "I'm officially a non-resident [of the UK], although I will always be British and proud of it." He currently divides his time between living in Barbados and Portugal. When asked in February 2013 if he had regrets about not starting a family, Richard said that if he had been married with children he could not have devoted so much time to his career. He said: "My three sisters have children, and it's been wonderful to watch them grow up, get married and start families of their own. I've made sure I've always played a part in their lives. So while I think I would have been a good father, I've given myself to my family and I wouldn't have it any other way. My 'freedom' allows me to continue my career. Had I been married, with children, I wouldn't be able to do what I do now."
In an article for The Guardian in 2011, the Journalist Sam Leith wrote of Richard's lack of commercial support among radio stations: "His uncompromising Christianity, his clean-living ways, and his connoisseurship of the fruits of his Portuguese winery have made him an object of incomprehension, even ridicule, for the uncultured, alcopop-drinking younger generation." Also writing in The Guardian, John Robb opined that because Richard has rebelled against the drink and drugs culture of typical rock stars, this "rebelling against rebellion" has made Richard something of a countercultural icon.
On 30 June 2012, Richard helped to carry the Olympic torch from Derby to Birmingham as part of the torch relay for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Richard said that his run with the Olympic torch would be one of his top-10 memories.
In 2013, following another campaign, copyright on sound recordings was extended to 70 years after first publication to the public for works still in copyright at that point. This means Richard's recordings between 1958 and 1962 are out of copyright, but those from 1963 will be in copyright until 2034.
In August 2014, in response to a complaint to the Metropolitan Police's Operation Yewtree (set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal), Richard's apartment in Berkshire was searched, but there were no arrests. He strongly denied the allegations. The BBC was criticised for its coverage of the search. The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, QC, criticised the police force for its "completely disreputable conduct" and said its action could make the warrant unlawful. Richard pulled out of a visit to the US Open tennis championships, turned down the freedom of his adopted Portuguese home city of Albufeira, and cancelled a scheduled appearance at Coventry Cathedral because he did not want the event to be "overshadowed by the false allegation". He subsequently returned to the UK and voluntarily met with and was interviewed by members of South Yorkshire Police. He was never arrested or criminally charged. Subsequently, David Crompton, chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, was criticised for his interactions with the BBC, and publicly apologised to Richard.
In February 2015, South Yorkshire Police announced that the inquiry into the alleged offences had increased, and would be continuing. Richard subsequently released a statement maintaining that the allegations were "absurd and untrue". The development came a day after an independent report had concluded that South Yorkshire Police had "interfered with the star's privacy" by telling the BBC about the August 2014 raid. The BBC's tip-off regarding the search reportedly came from within Operation Yewtree, although Crompton said he could not be certain that the leak originated from there.
On 21 June 2016, the BBC apologised publicly to Richard for causing distress after the controversial broadcast. On 27 September 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that the decision not to prosecute Richard over claims of historical sex offences had been upheld. The CPS reviewed the evidence following applications by two of his accusers, and concluded that the decision not to charge Richard was correct. It was later reported that Richard was suing the BBC and South Yorkshire Police. Legal papers were filed at the High Court in London on 6 October 2016. In April 2018, Richard gave evidence for more than hour at the High Court, describing the television coverage as "shocking and upsetting". His written statement was made available online by his lawyers, Simkins.