Sir Cliff Richard profile: A career spanning five decades

He had his first Christmas number 1 in 1988 and became the first British artist to release 100 singles in 1989

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The Independent Online

Veteran singer and actor Sir Cliff Richard has enjoyed a career spanning 50 decades, during which he has sold 250 million records world-wide.

Sir Cliff was born Harry Rodger Webb in 1940 and spent his childhood years in India, where he and his family lived in Howrah.

The family relocated to England in 1948 and settled in a house in Hertfordshire, where Sir Cliff enrolled at the Cheshunt County Secondary School.

It was at this school that Cliff and his school friends formed The Quintones and would perform at their local youth club.

At the age of 16, he went on to form The Drifters with Terry Smart and Norman Mitham and Ian Samwell. He adopted the stage name ‘Cliff Richard’ and his backing group become The Shadows.

1962: Singer Cliff Richard (aka Harry Webb) with members of the Shadows, his backing group. Next to him is Bruce Welch, rhythm guitar

Later in life, Sir Cliff would site rock'n'roll and artists such as Elvis Presley as among his biggest influences, with Sir Cliff admitting he "idolised" Presley.

In 1958, he shot to stardom, reaching Number Two in the British charts with their first hit single, Move It. His fifth record, Living Doll, went onto reach Number One.

18 year-old Cliff Richard is mobbed by fans at the Hulton Boys and Girls Exhibition at Olympia's Disc Theatre on 19 August 1959

He also embarked on a film career including The Young Ones and Summer Holiday which made him the UK's biggest box office attraction in 1962 and 1963.

In 1964, he became an active Christian. Sir Cliff's popularity was undimmed after his embrace of Christianity, setting him a world away from the wild behaviour of some rock stars

Sir Cliff represented the UK in the Eurovision song contest for the first time in 1968, where he lost to Spain by one point. In 1968, the Shadows split and Cliff went on tour with his own gospel album.

Between 1970 and 1974, he fronted his own television show, It's Cliff Richard, which also starred, Hank Marvin, Una Stubbs and Olivia Newton-John.

In 1973, he starred in the film Take Me High. He also represented the UK for a second time with his entry, Power to All Our Friends, coming third.

His career was relaunched with the aim of showcasing Sir Cliff as a rock'n'roll star again in 1976 with the album I’m Nearly Famous. It included the guitar-led track Devil Woman, which enjoyed some success in America and reached Number Six in the charts.

By 1979 he had teamed up with producer Alan Tarney for his hit We Don't Talk Anymore, the biggest-selling single of his career. He became a figure of fun in anarchic BBC2 comedy The Young Ones - named after one of his hits - during the 1980s, but he graciously appeared with the stars of the show on a Comic Relief version of Living Doll.

Despite enjoying commercial success for over five decades in the UK, he has only seen eight singles reach the top 40 charts in the US.

cliff-richard-13.jpg In 1980, he officially changed his name by deed poll to Cliff Richard.

The singer was knighted in 1995 and in 1996 famously led the Wimbledon centre court crowd in singing during a rain delay, with a performance that included Summer Holiday and Bachelor Boy.

He had his first Christmas number 1 in 1988 and became the first British artist to release 100 singles in 1989. His second Christmas number one would be with Saviour’s Day in 1990.

The Millennium Prayer, a rendition of the Lord’s Prayer sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne,  reached number one in 1999, despite many stations refusing to give it airplay. 

Sir Cliff has released nine studio albums between 2001 and 2013. He has sold more singles than any other male British artists in the UK and released his 100th studio album, The Fabulous Rock ‘n’ Roll Songbook, in November 2013.

Performing on stage during the Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012

Sir Cliff also performed at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012.

He has had 14 Number one singles in Britain and is the only singer to have topped the UK singles chart in five consecutive decades, from the 50s to the 90s.