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Cliff Richards and The Shadows

england hit career major

Cliff Richards and The Shadows, first great British band of the rock ‘n’ roll era. MEMBERSHIP: Cliff Richard (real name, Harry Roger Webb), voc. (b. Locknow, India, Oct. 14, 1940); Hank Marvin, gtr., voc. (b. Newcastle, England, Oct. 28, 1941); Bruce Welch, gtr., voc. (b. Bognor Regis, England, Nov. 2, 1941); Jet Harris, bs. (b. July 6, 1939); Tony Meehan, drm. (b. London, England, March 2, 1942).

Cliff Richard and The Shadows have displayed tenacious longevity, with over five decades of hits in their native England, both collectively and for Richard alone. Richard is one of the few teen idols who has been able to remain a major star, albeit primarily in his home country.

Richard was born in India, then a colonial outpost for England; his family returned home when he was seven. He began playing guitar as a teenager, inspired by the skiffle movement, and eventually formed his own backup band, originally called The Planets, and then briefly The Drifters. Around this time, he came up with the stage name of Cliff Richard. By summer 1958, they were known as The Shadows and released their first hit record, “Move It,” a #2 hit in Britain that launched their career.

While rock ‘n’ roll was popular in Britain in the mid-and late 1950s, British teens had no native stars to faun over as did their American counterparts. Richard filled the roll handily, and became a major draw in teen films and on TV as well as on tour. A major European star, between 1958-64, he scored dozens of vocal hits, but only two made it to the U.S. charts, 1959’s “Living Doll” and 1964’s “It’s All in the Game,” both in the lower reaches of the Top 40. The Shadows, meanwhile, had their own separate career as a Ventures-styled instrumental band, scoring many hits—most notably 1960’s #1 U.K. hit, “Apache”—thanks to the “twangy” guitar of Hank Marvin.

In 1966, appearing alongside the famed preacher Billy Graham, Richard announced that he was a longtime believer; he followed this announcement with a series of gospel recordings. (In fact, his 1967 film Two a Penny was funded by Graham). He also began to speak out against the sex and drugs part of the rock ‘n’ roll equation, although he continued to record secular songs. In 1968, The Shadows went off on their own, although throughout the next two decades they would reunite with from time to time, mostly for live concerts. Throughout the 1970s, Richard pursued a singing and acting career. He hosted a series of variety shows on the BBC, one of which launched a young Australian singer named Olivia Newton-John. When one aspect of his career faded, another one could be counted on to pick up the slack.

Surprisingly, between the mid-1970s and the early 1980s, Richard staged a remarkable comeback, finally cracking the U.S. charts in a major way. In 1976, his single “Devil Woman” rose to #6 Stateside and went gold. He followed with more hits, including “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” a #1 U.K. song that charted #10 in the U.S. in 1979. In the fall of 1980, “Dreaming” rose to #10 on the U.S. charts, and his duet with Olivia Newton-John for the Xanadu soundtrack, “Suddenly,” rose to #20. A few lesser hits followed in 1981 and 1982, and then Richard disappeared once again from the U.S. charts.

While this marked the end of his chart career in America, Richard continued to be a music-business force around the world, especially in England. He recorded duets with American stars old and new, working with Phil Everly in 1983 and Janet Jackson the year after. He appeared on the London stage through the mid-1980s in the smash hit play ’Time; during the mid-1990s he performed similar duty in the play Heath-cliff . In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he enjoyed another period of Top Ten hit-making in the U.K., releasing several best-selling albums.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Richard was also well-known for his annual gospel concert, a major charity event, and his Christmas singles. A number of these reached #1 status, includng his 1989 duet with rocker Van Morrison on “Whenever God Shines His Light” and his solo hit “Saviour’s Day” from the following year. Entering his fifth decade as a recording artist, Richard generated a bit of controversy in fall 1999 by setting “The Lord’s Prayer” to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” and calling it “The Millennium Prayer.” Although the BBC refused to play it, by Christmas 1999 it was the #1 record in England, remaining on top into the new year.

Cline, Gloria Griffen (1929–1973) - U.S. History [next] [back] Cliff, Jimmy (Chambers, James)

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