Cliff Richard branded Olivia Newton-John ‘sort of soulmate’ before performance snub

Cliff Richard discusses why he chose to never get married

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The Summer Holiday singer has savoured a staggering career that has spanned eight decades. Sir Cliff, born Harry Rodger Webb, is the third best-selling artist in the UK, behind The Beatles and Elvis Presley. During his lengthy career in music, he has collaborated with Sir Elton John, Van Morrison and Cilla Black. 

One of his favourite singers to work with was Grease star Newton-John, who was born in the UK but raised in Australia. 

He was overwhelmed when he met the singer for the first time in the early Seventies, while she was dating Bruce Welch, from Sir Cliff’s backing band The Shadows.

Back then, before her 1978 musical hit with John Travolta, she was “starting to make her way in music”.

Sir Cliff described her as “really easy to talk to” and “just a lovely person” – but he also felt a special connection with the star.

He explained: “We hit it off straight away.

“She was the sort of soulmate that you meet and you know is a friend for life.”

Shortly after they were introduced, Newton-John and her friend Pat Carroll went on tour as Sir Cliff’s backing vocalists.

He thought they were “fantastic singers” and “a lot of fun to be around” but one moment left the musician rather unhappy. 

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During a 1971 performance in Germany, Sir Cliff noticed they had “put their microphones near” to his “at the front of the stage”.

This annoyed the singer because it was right next to the audience – a part of the stage that he branded: “My area!”

In Sir Cliff’s autobiography The Dreamer, which was released last year, he described how he got his own back on Newton-John and Carroll.

After he spotted their microphones, he thought: “We’ll see about that!”

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He recalled: “I had a word with the tour manager and the next night, Olivia and Pat’s mics were behind the piano.”

Sir Cliff felt happy with how he had acted until he noticed them perform on stage. 

He wrote: “I came on and opened the piano lid – and you couldn’t see them!”

Sir Cliff admitted there were no hard feelings about the decision but claimed they “still remind” him of “this joke, occasionally”.

He noted that “everybody loved” Newton-John and when he asked her to perform on his TV series ‘It’s Cliff Richard’ it led to her “first big hit”.

She sang a cover of Bob Dylan’s 1970 song If Not For You, which amazed the crowds. 

Sir Cliff described: “The camera loved her, the viewers loved her – everybody loved her!”

Newton-John became a regular part of Sir Cliff’s TV show, which ran for six years from 1970, and performed alongside him in sketches. 

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At that time, there was a lot of speculation about him and Newton-John and many questioned whether they were involved in a romantic way. 

Sir Cliff explained: “It was clear from our on-screen chemistry that Olivia and I got on well.

“The papers began to speculate that we might be an item.”

Sir Cliff clarified “we never were” and pointed out that she was engaged to his former bandmate Welch at that time. 

He maintained that nothing happened between them even after Newton-John and Welch split-up or after that point.

Sir Cliff continued: “But we were as close as it’s possible for two just-good-friends to be.”

Newton-John was the first woman Sir Cliff duetted with and in 1972, she featured on his album Cliff Live In Japan.

By 1988, their duet Suddenly for the film Xanadu peaked at number 20 and since then they have released several other songs together.  

While Sir Cliff and Newton-John never dated, he did have a few high-profile relationships, including with A Question Of Sport host Sue Barker.

In his book, the singer admitted that he felt unable to be romantically involved with anyone during his early life in case it jeopardised his music career. 

However, when he dated Barker, he “seriously contemplated asking her to marry” him until eventually, they broke up.

In 2008, Sir Cliff told the Daily Mail: “In the end, I realised that I didn’t love her quite enough to commit the rest of my life to her.”

Cliff Richard: The Dreamer was published by Ebury Press in October last year and is available here. 

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