Cliff Richard

In the years after Elvis Presley but before the Beatles, Cliff Richard was the biggest thing in British rock & roll -- and in the years after the Beatles, he was never far from the top of the U.K. charts. Arriving in 1958, just a couple of years after skiffle swept across Britain, Richard was the first English singer to approximate the hip-shaking rebellion of American rock & roll with his 1958 debut single "Move It." A smash hit right out of the gate, "Move It" kicked off an astonishing five decades' worth of hits (his last time in the U.K. Top 10 was, as of this writing, in 2008, when "Thank You for a Lifetime" went to three). The earliest recordings, most made with his backing band the Shadows, were his hardest-rocking and undoubtedly his most influential, making an impression on nearly the entire first generation of British rock & rollers. Like Presley, who was certainly Richard's key influence, Cliff's popularity wound up pushing him ever so gradually to the status of an all-around entertainer. He moved into movies quickly -- the first came just a year after "Move It" -- and the Shadows tamed their rockabilly, but the real shift into the mainstream came after the Beatles opened the floodgates for homegrown British rock & roll, banishing Richard to the status of an older generation. Cliff continued to have hits in the '60s, even after he and the Shadows disbanded in 1968, but he split his time between pop and Christian music; then in the early '70s he focused on hosting a variety show on the BBC. Toward the end of the '70s, he made a big pop comeback with 1976's "Devil Woman," which became his first Top 10 hit in the U.S., and over the next five years he racked up several intercontinental soft rock hits, including 1979's "We Don't Talk Anymore," 1980's "Dreamin'," and the Olivia Newton-John duet "Suddenly," taken from the 1980 soundtrack to Xanadu. This period was his first and last time at the top of the U.S. charts but throughout the '80s, '90s, and 2000s he remained an institution in the U.K., regularly appearing in the Top Ten charts and on television, releasing 100 full-length albums in the process and, in 1995, he was made a Knight Bachelor in the British kingdom, proof of his iconic status.

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