- Date of Birth: 14 October 1940
- Place of Birth: Lucknow, India
- Birth name: Harry Rodger Webb
- Height: 5' 10½"
- Honours: Knighted in 1995. Awarded O.B.E. in 1980
Cliff Richard is an enigma. Who really knows him? I mean, in the UK, he is a national institution; arguably more loved than any other artist. He is known to almost everyone, young and old, fan and non-fan. Just say 'Cliff' to a 100 random people in the street and almost all will give you his surname.
And yet, around him is a icy wall, that I for one have never been able to get over.
I suppose that is the way it should be. I suppose that is what Cliff wants; a distance between you and him. And if I suppose right, then Cliff has won, for we do want to know more about him. Is he this? Is he that? What does he really think? What drives him on? What are his deepest desires? Does Harry Webb ever cross his mind? Whatever happened to Harry anyway?
The questions are left unanswered but remain questions gnawing away behind everything we think we know about Sir Cliff Richard.
For sure, Cliff can't be ignored or erased from the history books of our culture as those nameless, faceless and brainless radio station executives have tried to do by banning his records on their shows. Who the hell do they think they are? Excuse me, but when I last looked we in the UK weren't living in a Big Brother state just yet. I don't want anyone telling me what I should be listening to, certainly not the fashion gestapo of radioland. By banning his records, are they trying to make null and void the pasts of countless Cliff fans whose music has become the backdrop of their lives? If so, then what right have they to do so?
Through it all, Cliff has grumbled in a polite way. He does everything with manners. But why bother worrying about it at all? If I were Cliff I would say to radioland: 'I'm Cliff Richard and you're not". That's enough. I mean, lordy, here is a man who has sold 250 million records in a 40-year-plus career. He's above it all. So when there are murmurs from his camp that he may not record at all due to the hostility of the UK media, why not explore other means of releasing stuff that bypass the old-fashioned communication methods? Downloads, perhaps? His own label? The fans would lap it up.
I would hazard a guess Cliff is really fed up with it all. But only he and his inner circle know how angry he really is, for that enigma wall thingy is too high to get over and we are left just to wonder.
Another Cliff question returned to sender, I guess.
Sir Cliff Richard (born Harry Rodger Webb ) was born in Lucknow, India, on October 14, 1940. He and his family moved to Britain after Indian independence in 1947. Perhaps because he left so young, he really hasn't shown much interest in returning to where he was from, which is understandable. But, hey, I'm guessing at the reasons as I can't see over that Berlin-type wall.
What we do know is that with his backing group The Shadows, he dominated the British popular music scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These were the days before the Beatles, Rolling Stones et al and after the advent of the King, Elvis Presley. Cliff was kind of Britain's answer to the King, the voice and face of UK youth. It's difficult for those of us who weren't around in those days to understand how dangerous the advent of Cliff was felt by the establishment. A kind of 50s Eminem in a nice jumper, methinks.
It seems like a million years ago now, for with Cliff's solo career came the conversion to Christianity and the steady softening of his music that led to him appealing to all ages and not just the young. I suppose if one wanted a long-term career one had to adapt but I can't help feeling that what was lost was an edge that someone, say Bowie, has never lost.
But who am I to give the great man advice for he seems to have done rather well without it! The facts are mind-boggling. He has made the UK singles charts during all its active decades, from the 1950s to 2000s; hundreds of millions sold, his own wine, a hard-core of fans devoted to him and a made-in-heaven mansion in Barbados ... where did it all go wrong, Cliff??
But for all his UK fame, he never did make it big in the US. As he softened and softened into an all-round UK tv personality he became more and more British and as such didn't seem to export as well.
Today, Cliff pops up on UK tv from time to time on those ghastly ITV An Audience With-type programmes and guest slots on popular shows. It does make you slightly uneasy to think that this isn't really showing him the respect he deserves. Britain seems to be like that: not respecting those that deserve respect and respecting those that don't. But the fact is he seems to be in that in-between land of work and retirement and treated as such, though I could be wrong.
Cliff recently said in an interview that when he heard people calling him an enigma he looked up the meaning of the word in a dictionary and was ok with what he found. That single admission gave more away than any a book on him has. For to be so concerned with his image that he would be bothered to look up in a dictionary something others were saying about him suggested to me that beyond anything, his career and the perception of his career were paramount.
At last, spyholes have appeared in the wall.