Cliff Richards under the spotlight

By Nicola Harley in London

Always a bachelor boy, Sir Cliff Richard has faced questions about his sexuality for years

Cliff Richard.
Cliff Richard.

Speculation about his private life has followed Sir Cliff Richard for decades.

From his whirlwind romance with tennis star Sue Barker to talk of celibacy and questions over his sexuality, Richard's status as a lifelong bachelor has made him the subject of inevitable public scrutiny.

Now he faces fresh questions over his personal life as a result of the police investigation into an allegation of child sex abuse dating back to 1985.


Cliff Richards with Sue Barker. Photo / Getty Images

In April this year he appeared finally to have had enough of the endless rumours about his personal life, telling an Australian television interviewer: "If I was gay would it really matter?

"Would you not come to my concerts because I was gay? I hope not. If I was gay would it make any difference?

"But who cares? It doesn't really matter to me any more. I have got gay friends. Most people have gay friends."

In recent years he has divided his time between his six-bedroom villa in Barbados and his vineyard retreat in Portugal with his companion, John McElynn.

McElynn is an American former missionary whom Richard met on a trip to New York in 2001 and who now manages the singer's homes.

Dubbed the "Peter Pan of pop" because of his eternally youthful appearance, Richard has defied his critics to become the only British star to have a Top 10 hit in six separate decades, starting with his first single, Move It, with The Drifters (who later became known as The Shadows) in 1958.

But despite his phenomenal chart success - outsold only by the Beatles and Elvis Presley in Britain - he has never married and has lived much of his life as a single man.

His most high-profile relationship, with Sue Barker, began in 1982 and lasted "a few years", he said, disclosing later that he had come close to marrying her but could not "commit" to her for the rest of his life. Previously he had dated the dancer Jackie Irving, who later married Adam Faith.

Despite his solitary existence, he has denied taking any decision to be celibate, telling Radio 4's Women's Hour in 2002: "Celibacy is a way of life, a vow. I have never vowed to be celibate so I don't feel celibate.

"If I wanted to get married tomorrow and have kids I could do it, instantly. But now I don't think in terms of marriage any more. I don't think I'll get married but I can't discount the possibility, though."

Speculation over celibacy was stoked by his high-profile pursuit of Christianity; in 1966, when he spoke about his faith at a rally organised by Billy Graham, his fans were reduced to tears, assuming it meant he was about to turn his back on his pop career.

But his musical and film stardom had only just begun. Although his biggest hit, The Young Ones, released in 1962, and the hugely successful film Summer Holiday were already behind him, he went on to sell more than 250 million records worldwide, making him the biggest-selling British solo act.

He has toured almost every year of his career; in 1985 he struggled with illness and was forced to cancel five British concerts for the first time in 27 years.

A duet for Live Aid with Elton John had to be cancelled, but he made the charity's evening event and was able to contribute with a song.

An avid tennis fan, he is a regular at Wimbledon and in 1996 even entertained the crowds on court after rain stopped play.

He became a Christmas favourite in households across the country after his 1988 number one Mistletoe and Wine and by 1989 he had become the first British artist to release 100 singles.

It was when he was at the height of his stardom in the eighties that he officially changed his name by deed poll from Harry Webb to Cliff Richard. In 1995 he became the first pop star to be honoured with a full knighthood.

Worth an estimated 40 million ($78.6 million), he topped calendar sales on Amazon.co.uk every year from the online retailer's launch in 1998 until One Direction beat him to the top spot in 2012.

He was also chosen to perform at the Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace and to carry the Olympic Torch in Birmingham.

Last year he released his 100th album, The Fabulous Rock 'n' Roll Songbook.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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