Often referred to as the British Elvis Presley, he burst into the charts as a rebellious rock and roll singer in the late 1950s. Over five decades on, Cliff Richard is now one of the most successful British artists of all-time, having sold over 250 million records.
When was Cliff Richard born?
Cliff was born 14th October 1940, to parents Rodger Oscar Webb and Dorothy Marie Dazely. After growing up in Maqbara, in 1948, following Indian independence, the Webb family relocated to Essex, England after a three-week long trip aboard the SS Ranchi.
What's his real name?
Born Harry Rodger Webb, it was entrepreneur Harry Greatorex who suggested that, as an up-and-coming rock and roll singer, he should change his name. ‘Cliff’ was reportedly chosen for its ‘rocky’ association, in keeping with the genre he was trying to break into. It was songwriter Ian Samwell (one of the people to thank for ‘Move It’) who suggested the surname ‘Richard’ as a tribute to his musical hero Little Richard. It was in 1958 that the star Cliff Richard was born.
So, who were The Shadows?
Talking of names, it was during this time that they named Cliff’s backing group. Initially called the ‘The Planets’, the group were later referred to as ‘The Drifters’. However, when they realised that name was already taken by a popular American soul group, they eventually settled on ‘The Shadows’.
‘Move It’ by Cliff Richard and The Shadows
Signed by EMI in 1958, their first single ‘Move It’ was released later the same year. After reaching number two in the British charts, musical legend John Lennon suggested that "before Cliff and The Shadows, there had been nothing worth listening to in British music." Often described as Britain's first authentic rock and roll song, it remains a much-loved classic to this day.
Introducing “Cliff hysteria”
After making his TV debut that year, he went on to begin his first UK tour; cue (what Richard refers to as) “Cliff hysteria.” It was a time when British music fans wanted their own pop hero and that’s what they got in Cliff.
When asked which year of his life he’d like to relive, he opted for his “breakthrough year.” And, whilst Cliff admitted that there had been “so many good years,” 1958 was where it all began.
His most popular songs
Together with his backing group, The Shadows, Cliff Richard dominated the pre-Beatles British music scene during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Still storming the charts over 50 years after the release of ‘Move It,’ the musical legend has sold over 21 million singles in the UK. He’s currently the third-top-selling artist in the British chart history, behind The Beatles and Elvis Presley.
Here are a few classics from his 145-strong record collection:
‘The Young Ones’
The title song of the 1961 film of the same name, ‘The Young Ones’ spent six weeks at number one in 1962.
‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’
Gathering over four million sales worldwide, ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’ spent four weeks at number one in 1979.
‘Mistletoe and Wine’
This Christmas number one was Cliff’s only chart-topper of the decade, but it still took the top spot as the best-selling hit of 1988.
‘The Millennium Prayer’
Combining ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ with the melody of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, ‘The Millennium Prayer’ smashed the chart in 1999. With EMI, (his record label for over 40 years) refusing to release it, he released it with an independent label.
‘21st Century Christmas’
Just missing out on another Christmas number one (thanks to Leona Lewis), Sir Cliff’s 2014 single went to number two in the charts.
What is Cliff Richard’s best-selling song?
After spending six weeks at number one, ‘The Young Ones’ became his best-selling single, with over one million copies sold in the UK alone. Now, that’s an impressive figure!
But even Cliff himself has admitted that times have changed. Back then, he was “selling up to 80,000 in a day and on those weekends would be 120,000 a day.” By contrast, these days you can be number one by selling under 100,000 in a week.
How many albums has he released?
With a career spanning well over five decades, it’s no surprise Cliff has quite a collection under his belt. His very first live album ‘Cliff’ was recorded live at Abbey Road Studios in front of a small audience. It was released in April 1959 and reached number four in the UK Album Chart.
Here’s are the stats behind his collection, as of 2017:
- - 45 studio albums
- - 11 live albums
- - 15 compilation albums
- - 36 video albums
- - 46 EPs
- - 146 singles
- - 7 soundtrack albums
- - 3 stage-show albums
- - 8 gospel compilations
Cliff Richard does Christmas
With so many albums, there’s one that people keep coming back to: ‘Cliff at Christmas’. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of listening to Cliff’s classics over the festive season, you need to invest! His 2003 album includes some of his earlier Christmas hits, as well as eight newer recordings.
Need a reminder? Here’s one you’ll know…
Cliff Richard hits the big screen
Not only was he an integral part of the music industry; it wasn’t long into his career before we saw the man himself grace the silver screen.
Here are some highlights from his early career:
Serious Charge (1959)
Directed by Terence Young, Serious Charge (1959) was written and produced by Mickey Delamar. Adapted from Philip King’s stage production, it’s now most notable as Cliff Richard’s sensational big screen debut. Singing tracks including his first UK number one 'Living Doll', Cliff plays Curley Thompson - a young tearaway who everyone thinks is bad except the local vicar.
Expresso Bongo (1959)
His second appearance on the big screen saw him star in Expresso Bongo (1959). After being discovered by the sleazy hustler Johnny Jackson, Bert Rudge (played by Cliff) is sent down the road to stardom. However, it becomes apparent that his search for fame and fortune isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Wonderful to Be Young! (1961)
With their youth club in danger of being flattened to make way for a new development, Nicky and his friends must find £1,500 to pay the new owner. After going to great lengths to come up with the cash, Nicky (Richard) feels the pressure of carrying the burden of a big secret that he can’t share with anyone.
Summer Holiday (1963)
Starring Britain's hot property and with its title song climbing to number one in the charts, 1963’s Summer Holiday was always set to be a success. The story centres around Don (Cliff) and his two friends as they take off in a double-decker to travel around Europe, meeting a variety of interesting people they come across a young woman who needs their help.
Swingers’ Paradise (1964)
Originally titled ‘Wonderful Life’, Swingers’ Paradise (1964) told the story of Johnny - a stranded merchant sailor, who together with his fellow seamen, runs across a film crew under the direction of Lloyd Davis (Walter Slezak). When he falls for leading actress Jenny (Susan Hampshire), Johnny learns of her dissatisfaction in Slezak's production. In order to please his new love, he plans to use the equipment, cast, and crew to shoot a musical version of the picture himself.
Cliff made his own genre of film known as a "Cliff Richard musical", which led to him being named the number one box office attraction in Britain for both 1962 and 1963, beating that of James Bond.
Cliff Richard’s time in front of the camera
It’s not just his voice that makes the perfect Christmas gift.
What’s better than a Cliff CD? A picture of the man himself!
Each year we see artists releasing their latest calendar – it’s become something of a tradition – but Cliff Richard was a pioneer of the artform, and has released more than 35 calendars over the years, to the delight of his loyal following, shifting over 1.5 million copies during his career. With his calendars getting better every time, he’s still fending off the competition. 2016 saw Cliff’s calendar dominance continue, as he beat the sales figures of artists including Little Mix and Justin Bieber – Cliff, you’ve still got it.
How many awards does Cliff have on his mantelpiece?
Over his career to date, Cliff Richard has had 67 top ten UK singles - the second highest total for an artist behind Elvis Presley. He has achieved 14 number one UK singles, and holds the record (again, with Elvis Presley) as the only act to make the UK singles charts in all of its first six decades (yes, from the 1950s right up to the 2000s).
In that time, he has amassed many awards, including three Brit Awards - winning ‘Best British Male’ twice, plus the award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Music’, as well as two Ivor Novello Awards, to name a few.
Cliff Richard the philanthropist
Throughout his career, he has given away at least a tenth of his income to charity, using his high-profile status to support a number of causes close to his heart. Whilst it’s widely reported that the singer is a regular contributor to the likes of Alzheimer’s Research UK, Tearfund, the Cliff Richard Tennis Foundation, Kidney Research UK, and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, it’s likely the singer donates to many more.
Sir Cliff Richard OBE
Cliff Richard was awarded the O.B.E. (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in person from the Queen in 1980 - the year that he turned 40. Quite a year for Cliff!
Fifteen years later, in 1995, Cliff became Sir Cliff Richard OBE; the first rock singer to be awarded a knighthood in recognition of his services to music and charity.
How much is Cliff Richard worth?
According to the annual Sunday Times Rich List, the music icon was worth £58m in 2016.The other musicians topping the list were Englebert Humperdinck (£70m), Gary Barlow (£75m), and Sting (£185m), as well as Sir Paul McCartney, who’s worth an impressive £760m.
What is he doing nowadays?
Well into his 70s, Cliff still insists that retirement isn’t part of his vocabulary, but has suggested he’s open to having a break; “If I say I retire, I’d have to come back out of retirement.”
Although he’s never managed to crack America, Cliff has retained his popularity as a musical legend in most parts of the world. And when he’s not busy touring, he divides his time between living in Barbados and Portugal.
Want to add to your Cliff collection?
Do you want to find out more about one of music’s biggest legends? Maybe you’re already a super-fan and want to add to your collection?
If you want to shop all things Cliff Richard, you can find everything you need here.