The Redemption Of Cliff Richard – Why His Singing At Cilla Black’s Funeral Resonated So Much

Cliff Richard with Cilla Black (and with Lulu as well – bottom left).

A link I put on my Newstalk ZB Facebook pages (facebook.com/timroxborogh and facebook.com/zbthetwo) yesterday showing Cliff Richard singing at Cilla Black’s funeral has quickly become one of the most liked and viewed posts I’ve ever shared. And so while there’s a good chance you’ve already seen the clip if you follow me on Facebook, I just wanted to tap out a few words about why I believe this footage has resonated so much.

The first point is obvious: Cilla Black was a much-loved entertainer who managed to surpass her 60s pop-star success by becoming an endearing TV-institution in the UK. As such, people were always going to be interested in her funeral. But the clip of Cliff talking about his great friend and then singing was something uniquely special.

Cliff will be 75 in two months and has endured the worst year and a bit of his life with the as yet unsubstantiated claims about him. Some recent photos have the man so often referred to as being “ageless” or the “Peter Pan Of Pop” looking decidedly worn out, even gaunt. At least that is how some media have portrayed him.

So there’s Cliff Richard, nearly 11 years older than Paul McCartney’s 1960’s idea of what once constituted old-age, singing at a funeral for the dearest of friends, against a backdrop of his own personal trauma. And he knocked it out of the park. His vocals were nothing short of remarkable, so too the song.

Faithful One was the final track from 2004’s Something’s Goin’ On, one of the three best albums he’s made in the past 30 years, alongside Always Guaranteed (1987) and Stronger (1989). Recorded in Nashville and Miami, Cliff assembled mostly American writers, musicians and producers who really didn’t know him from a bar of soap, let alone the singer who’s placed more songs in the UK top 10 (68) and top 40 (124) than anybody else.

The two exceptions were Isle Of Man-born Bee Gee Barry Gibb who contributed the excellent UK top 20 hit I Cannot Give You My Love and the British contemporary Christian songwriter Chris Eaton who wrote or co-wrote four songs for the album. One of those songs was Faithful One.

Standing at the cathedral lectern, Cliff looked healthy and composed as he spoke off the cuff of a friend who’d stood by him through thick and thin for 50 years. Admitting he’d left his lyric sheet behind, Cliff then declared he should be nervous, “but didn’t care anymore.” After explaining the “faithful one” referred to in the song is Jesus, he launched into one of the finest spirituals of his seven-decade career.

He did so with a kind of authenticity that struck me as less about preaching and more of, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me – this is my truth and I’m saying these words and singing this song because I believe it.” These lyrics perhaps mean more to Cliff now than they did in 2004:

I walk a narrow road through valleys deep
In search of higher ground on mountains steep
And with feet unsure I still keep pressing on
For I am guided by the faithful one

For a enigmatic celebrity so lampooned for his Christianity, for his celibacy, for the general mystery of his personal life, this performance ironically felt like the redemption of his public image. He seemed brave.

Candle In The Wind ’97 this is not – for a start he sang to an instrumental backing track so the recording is not of commercial-release standard. But if it is the beginning of a reassessment of an artist with far more credibility than many critics have cared to remember or realise, than what a gift Cilla Black has given to him. The clip from the funeral as well as the studio version are below.

Afterword: Cilla Black died August 1st aged 72 following a fall in her Spanish home. Shortly after her death she achieved the first UK#1 album of her career – The Very Best Of Cilla Black.


Click here to link to a piece I wrote last year about the police investigation Cliff is facing. It is a defense of both the man and the music he’s made.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. AngelJoy says:

    I am in total agreement with you about this. One of the first things I thought when I heard that Cilla Bkack had passed was that Sir Cliff lost one of his best friends. This performance was moving and many people saw it and felt the same. It's hard but when you have been through so much it gets easier to keep going. Wishing peace and comfort to Cilla's family and her lifelong friends who became family along this Ricky road of life. For Cilla a new journey, fir the rest if us, hopefully kind memories and above all…. Peace❤️

    1. Anonymous says:

      I felt the same as you when I heard of Cilla s passing. He has lost a great friend

  2. Ultramum says:

    Thanks for this article. I think Cliff has been much maligned, with no basis of fact yet found, but he has been left in limbo by the British Police. I'm so glad Cilla had so much love and trust in him that this was what she wanted at her funeral.

  3. bitbech says:

    Paul McCartney is only two years younger than Cliff Richard

  4. Anonymous says:

    The 11 years refered to the song " When I'm 64 " sang by Paul McCartney.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The 11 years refered to the song " When I'm 64 " sang by Paul McCartney.

  6. Glenda Cliffer says:

    Thanks for your blog, Tim. Cliff has said before that his "niceness" is often mistaken for weakness by a lot of people. But those people couldn't be more wrong. Cliff carries himself with exceptional strength, dignity and integrity. He has always been true to himself, lived his life through his faith and his music, and given the best of himself at all times. In his own words, Cliff has been the true rebel of the rock and roll scene….the others were followers with their hotel room trashing and ridiculous behaviour….he dared to be different (to rebel)…and guess which one of all of those is about to start another sell-out tour 🙂 In my opinion there certainly is some redemption that needs take place for what has been done to Cliff's life and public image over the last 12 months…..but none of that needs to come from Cliff himself.

    1. Linda says:

      I agree entirely Glenda. Sir Cliff is one of the nicest, kindest, generous and hard working people that I know. He always gives 100% in what he does….no matter whether its performing at his concerts, wine signing or a charity event, he always gives of his best. The people that need to redeem themselves are the ones that have treated him so badly, not just over the past 12 months or so but also those that have tried to belittle him for most of his career. Cliff has nothing to redeem himself for.

    2. Anonymous says:

      Im a huge cliff fan and I hate how our british police have treat cliff time they cleared him of these false alleggations

  7. How Sir Cliff leads himself through life with dignity , faith and staying down-to-earth despite his high celebrity status is worth admiring! He is a lovely and honest person and personality inside and out!Above all he´s one of the best singers ever have existed because he has never stopped hard working to get even better and better , what he actually did. His concerts are highlights, there can´t be given and done more for the audience!

  8. 29-2-2016 Thanks Tim for writing this report about Cliff – iv'e been a fan of both Cliff and Cilla since the 60s. There has never been a singer like cliff his 75 birthday has come and gone and every one of his show's was a sellout how many 75 year old singers do we all know that can still draw full houses at that age. he has a faithfull fan base. thanks again Peeter Muna

  9. Chris Latus White says:

    Well done Tim there is nothing really I could add to what you Said… He was honest and did not show off like cilla was his best friend he always underplays things this unsaod behaviour is a sign of his down to earth honest humanity

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