August 1, 2021

singleness, sexual abuse and the Eurovision that Massiel ‘stole’

It would not be surprising that Cliff Richard (that this October 14 turns 80) did not have much sympathy for our country. Although we are not aware that he has manifested anything against Spain as a nation (or its coasts or its gastronomy or even its people), the truth is that he must not have very good memories of his ‘Spanish experience’. And we do not say it so much because its passage through this bull hide has been plagued with paellas at the price of Iranian caviar or a rampant salmonellosis. His thing goes on the other side, more related to the Eurovision environment, because what are the chances that you will present yourself to the famous song contest and both times you will end up defeated by that small country that is at the tip of the continent that has been almost half century living under a dictatorship?

The first time Richard went to Eurovision, he was already a tremendously popular singer. He was also a fervent Christian (his conversion took place in 1966 and he even traveled as a missionary to countries such as Bangladesh, Kenya, Haiti), but that now doesn’t matter. The fact is that in 1968 an exultant Massiel with the catchy ‘La, la, la’ he won that year’s contest by one point. Second place was for English. The life of the Madrilenian took a 180 degree turn and his continued its upward trajectory. However, forty years later (which is said soon but it is a very very cold revenge), Richard claimed the triumph of that edition in a documentary by Jose Maria Iñigo for Mediaset, ‘1968. I lived the Spanish May ‘, in which he implied that “Spanish Television (was) buying series that were never going to be shown and never were shown, as long as they gave us the votes to be able to win.”

The news was reflected in some British media with headlines such as “Did Franco steal Eurovision from Cliff?” The singer himself explained in ‘The Guardian’: “For a long time I have lived with that number two on top and it would be great if someone from the contest, officially, comes to me and says: ‘Cliff, you won that damn thing after all … ‘If, as they say, they think there is proof that I was the winner, I would be the happiest person on the planet. ”

Massiel, with the Dynamic Duo and Cliff Richard. (Getty)

The Eurovision thorn had been so captivated by Cliff’s self-esteem that in 1973 he returned to participate in the contest. This time it took place in Luxembourg and during the intermission the popular Spanish clown acted Charlie Rivel. We do not know if the clown managed to get a smile from him but if he did, the scoreboard erased it: in the tight final, the Englishman would be in third place just six points behind the winner, the host country. Second place went to the ‘Eres tú’ de Youth. Sorry, Cliff.

A discreet star

Beyond the Eurovision anecdote, Richard’s career and life has developed in a calm way, far removed from the stereotypes of the pop and rock stars of the 60s who were dedicated to destroying hotel rooms, provoking hordes of fans and experiment with the drugs of the moment. Born in the same year as Lennon o Ringo Starr, Richard’s is light years away. It was precisely this turn towards religiosity that took him away from the more ‘libertine’ path of fame: in fact he was on the verge of abandoning music and becoming a teacher, but his Christian friends convinced him that he did not have to give up music . In fact, as a sign that both vocations were compatible, the musician was invited by the Catholic Church to sing at the world youth meeting held in Cologne, Germany.

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Crowned on numerous occasions as one of the most sought-after ‘golden singles’, the truth is that he was about to go through the altar: the first time with the dancer Jackie Irving and later with the extenista Sue Baker. “I thought very seriously about marrying her, but I realized that I did not love her enough to commit myself for the rest of my life,” he explained in his autobiographical book. ‘My life. My way’ (‘Mi vida. Mi camino’). However, for many the most surprising part of his memories was when he spoke of John McElynn, the secularized priest with whom he has lived for years and who he recognized as his ‘partner’, trying to settle the rumors about his sexuality: “What does it matter to anyone what each one of us is as an individual? I don’t think my fans are going to be concerned about that, ”he wrote.

Cliff Richard, in a recent image. (Getty)

Used to wearing that low profile without big scandals or powerful headlines, he was very surprised when his name was caught up in a case of alleged sexual abuse to a minor that would have taken place in 1985. Although the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence, the BBC even broadcast live from a helicopter a raid on the singer’s house as part of the investigation in 2014. Five years later, the television network had to pay him 2.2 million euros as compensation for the legal costs of a legal process that Cliff carried out against them for having invaded their privacy.