In the preface to this autobiography, released to celebrate 50 years in show business, Sir Cliff Richard says that if you want to know what he really feels about things, this is the book to read.
From humble beginnings — with his family living in a rented room on their return from India in 1948 — Cliff Richard rose to fame and fortune, now spending most of his time in his homes in Barbados and Portugal.
Cliff is widely known as a Christian and has been actively involved with Tearfund since its beginning in 1968. He describes Christianity as that which sustains him and makes his life worth living.
He identifies the death of his father in 1961 as the catalyst for his conversion. Influenced initially by Jehovah’s Witnesses, it was in 1964 that he came into regular contact with evangelical Christians. He recalls lying on his bed one night and praying, asking Jesus to come into his life. The emptiness and dissatisfaction, which had plagued him despite his success, was gone. He now had new priorities and new purpose.
18 months later, in June 1966, Cliff appeared on the platform with Billy Graham at Earls Court and made public his Christian profession.
However, his views have changed over the time since. Cliff maintains his beliefs are unaltered, but admits he is no longer rigid in his attitudes. He no longer attends church regularly, nor does he read his Bible or pray as much as before.
He accuses the church of being too judgemental and believes Christians should not judge — we should leave that to God. In regard to homosexuality, for example, he argues it has been legal now for over 30 years, and what really counts is commitment. He speaks approvingly of same-sex marriages, where there is long-term commitment, and believes the church needs to change with the times to remain relevant. In the book, there is no engagement with Scripture on the issue.
In respect of his own sexuality, Cliff would like to remain enigmatic. He says that he has been close to marriage on two occasions — Sue Barker was one of the women. He describes an ex-priest, John McElynn, who currently lives with him, as a ‘companion’. Interestingly, in discussing why he has not married, he describes how his lifestyle would be difficult for any ‘partner’ (rather than using the word ‘wife’).
Cliff Richard believes that anyone who genuinely seeks God will find the path — all he can say is that Christianity (where Jesus is the path) works for him and has worked for millions before him.
Overall, the entertainer comes across as a man who has sought to maintain a wholesome image throughout his long career, which clearly has been the result of hard work and strict physical discipline. One would have hoped he would have been as diligent in maintaining the spiritual disciplines of fellowship, prayer and Bible study.
Undoubtedly, he has moved away from earlier evangelical convictions, and seems overanxious now not to appear judgemental or rigid, particularly on issues of sexuality. Sadly, his stance on this has no biblical foundation.