Cliff Richard: my Belfast epitaph
The Young One, Sir Cliff Richard at 68, hasn't a thought about dying in his head but the pop singer who refuses to grow old reveals today that it was in Belfast he found the epitaph he wants inscribed on his headstone.
It happened in the dark days of The Troubles when plain Cliff Richard was in town performing at the King's Hall in front of a packed audience for the late promoter Jim Aiken.
“Next day before leaving for London I read a review of my concert in a daily newspaper,” Sir Cliff said. “And there were these words staring me in the face from the page. They went like this: ‘God and rock 'n' roll go well together in the hands of someone who loves them both’.
“A simple profound statement — but I've never forgotten those words I picked up in Belfast all those years ago. And I definitely want to have them on my headstone when I die. I want to be remembered as a rock 'n' roller and a believer.”
Sir Cliff, who is a devout Christian, hasn't a clue which newspaper carried that review that made such an impact on him and he doesn't know the name of the journalist who wrote it.
“He or she struck a chord with me whoever they were. Those words kind of sum up my faith and my career. Mind you I have no fear of death at all although I do keep fit to keep death at bay. I want to play tennis on my 100th birthday and I'm not joking.”
Sir Cliff played Belfast yet again last week and is planning to return next September 23 for Jim Aiken's son Peter, now head of Aiken Promotions, on his reunion tour with The Shadows.
“The other day when I was rehearsing with The Shadows this feeling came over me and I turned to Hank Marvin and told him that I felt 18 again, back to the time when it was the beginning for us. It was as if no time had passed at all.
“I really did feel just 18 at that practice. I don't feel 68. When I was 18 I used to think that by the time I would be in my 60s I would be sitting every day over a bowl of Cornflakes and watching television.
“Instead here I am travelling more than ever and rehearsing yet again for another tour.
“Really I don't think about time passing at all. What I look forward to is being practical and just getting through the next year.”
Does he ever think though about where his last resting place will be when he does die so that the epitaph from Belfast can be etched for that final tombstone?
“There is a family plot where my father and mother are buried, but I have been assured that when I do pass on a lot of fans will want to pay homage to me and visit my grave. So that family plot might not be suitable.
“Perhaps I should think of a last resting place that is more accessible to people.
“But right now I'm excited about getting back with the Shadows and more immediately about Christmas and I'm not thinking of being dead or buried although I will have to make some arrangements about a grave eventually.
“I don't want to leave it to someone else.”