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

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 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 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.

Sir Cliff Richard and The Shadows performs live on stage at the O2 Arena on 28 September 2009 in London Sir Cliff Richard and The Shadows performs live on stage at the O2 Arena on 28 September 2009 in London 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 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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?