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Sir Cliff remains one of the best-selling musicians of all time and is believed to have sold in excess of 250 million records worldwide. The Dreamin’ crooner shot to fame in the late Fifties while with his backing group, The Shadows, and has savoured enduring appeal throughout the decades. His success was famously described by The Beatles’ star John Lennon who stated before him “there had been nothing worth listening to in British music”. The love life of the singer, who turns 80 today, has drawn equal levels of intrigue and little is known about his personal relationships. But in a rare disclosure, Sir Cliff spoke out about his romantic flings and why he chose to remain single.

In the past, the Move It hitmaker defended his decision to remain a bachelor and claimed he was “sick to death” of speculation about his sexuality. 

For years, Sir Cliff has travelled with companion John McElynn, a former Roman Catholic priest, but has insisted they are not lovers.

He struck up a friendship with the US missionary, who he referred to as a “blessing”, after they first met in New York in 2001 and believed their “arrangement worked out really well”.

Sir Cliff said: “John and I have over time struck up a close friendship. He has also become a companion, which is great because I don’t like living alone, even now.”

In his 2009 autobiography My Life, My Way, he batted away rumours that they were an item and felt the curiosity about his sexuality was unjustified. 

Sir Cliff wrote: “What business is it of anyone else’s what any of us are as individuals? I don’t think my fans would care either way.

“People often make the mistake of thinking that only marriage equals happiness.

“I may suddenly meet someone and feel differently, but right now I am not sure marriage would enhance my happiness.”

Sir Cliff, who is Christian, previously called on the Church of England to update their views on same-sex marriage and has petitioned to see it legalised.

He wrote: “I think the Church must come round and see people as they are now. 

“Gone are the days when we assumed loving relationships would be solely between men and women.

“If anyone comes to me and says, ‘This is my partner, we are committed to each other’, then I don’t care what their sexuality is. I’m not going to judge – I’ll leave that to God.”

Sir Cliff revealed there were only two women he ever considered marrying – dancer Jackie Irving and former tennis ace Sue Barker. 

He dated Ms Irving, who he described as “utterly beautiful”, in the Sixties and said there was a time when they were “inseparable”.

After they split-up, the next lady to catch his eye was Sue Barker in 1982, who he bonded with over shared passion for Christianity and tennis. 

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Sir Cliff claimed they formed a close connection due to their interests and commented: “I seriously contemplated asking her to marry me.

“But in the end I realised that I didn’t love her quite enough to commit the rest of my life to her. There were no broken hearts.”

In his autobiography, he also recalled being “seduced” by Carol Costa, the estranged wife of Jet Harris from The Shadows. 

Sir Cliff wrote: “I was surprised but not unhappy to be seduced… [but] sex is not one of the things that drives me.”

In 1996, he bluntly answered further questions about his sexuality and flatly stated: “I’m aware of the rumours, but I’m not gay.”

Steve Turner, who penned Cliff Richard: The Biography in 1993, gave his theory on why the intrigue about his love life continues to fascinate the public.

He wrote: “Of all the people I’ve interviewed, from David Bowie to the Beatles, he’s the one most people ask me about. 

“With Cliff, there’s always that element of uncertainty and puzzlement, because there’s something unresolved about his image.”

Cliff Richard’s autobiography My Life, My Way was published by Headline Review in 2009 and is available here.

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