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Dan the man Showbiz legend Cliff Richard says he's 'in awe' of pal Daniel O'Donnell

After getting to know each other in the early days of Daniel’s career, the two performers are now close friends

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Daniel O'Donnell and Cliff Richard

Daniel O'Donnell and Cliff Richard

Daniel O'Donnell and Cliff Richard

LIVING legend Cliff Richard is reminiscing about his pal Daniel O’Donnell as he chats while relaxing in the sunshine under a clear blue sky on a balmy day in Barbados.

After getting to know each other in the early days of Daniel’s career, the two top entertainers are now close friends.

But as Daniel celebrates 40 years in music, he still has a long road ahead before he hits Cliff’s historic milestone of 60-plus years.

Cliff is particularly proud of the fact that he received a knighthood for his services to music, and is the only artist ever to have a Top 5 hit in eight consecutive decades.

But evergreen Cliff is impressed by the Donegal crooner’s achievements and longevity.

“I would sing Congratulations to Daniel if I was there,” Cliff tells the Sunday World from his home in Barbados.

“Anybody that gets past five years in this business is doing well, so 40 years is absolutely phenomenal. Daniel absolutely deserves his 40 years of success because he has worked his butt off and has been loyal to his audience all the way through.

“You think of some of the bands and some of the singers who have come through in the last 20-odd years, and they’ve all been pretty damn good, but they don’t last well.

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Daniel and Cliff at a charity tennis event

Daniel and Cliff at a charity tennis event

Daniel and Cliff at a charity tennis event

"I’ve got a feeling that maybe Daniel and I are of a group that like what we do and we just do it. As long as there’s an audience willing to come and see us, we are willing to go out and do a concert. If there’s a market, even if it’s not very big, you just go and do it.”

Cliff, who turned 80 last October and had his first hit record at the age of 17, has always been Daniel’s number one idol and inspiration. When Daniel first started making an impact on the UK live entertainment scene, Cliff began to take notice of him.

And the iconic singer tells me how he became absolutely intrigued by Daniel when the Irish star first turned up at one of his shows in England.

“When I did the indoor arena in Birmingham all those years ago, Daniel arrived on a bus with a bunch of my fans, and that was the first time we met,” Cliff reveals.

“I had heard of Daniel even in those early days, but when he turned up on a coach with the fans I immediately thought, ‘this guy is different.’

“We met again a couple of times, and then we were both in Edinburgh at the same time. I was playing the Usher Hall and Daniel was playing a small 200-seater and he sold out everything.

“We decided to have dinner that night.

He arrived very late and I said, ‘What have you been doing?’ He said, ‘I’ve been signing autographs.’ I said, ‘How long does it take to sign a dozen autographs?’ He said, ‘No, all 200.’

“I’m in awe of him because he still does that. He and I now rarely have dinner after a concert in the same area. Majella comes along, but Daniel still is staunchly signing autographs.

“I don’t know about Daniel, but I cannot eat before a concert or I’d spend the whole night burping, Therefore, I eat after the show. The show is finished at about 11pm, and by the time you get to a restaurant it’s nearly midnight.

“Daniel probably makes sure he’s got enough grub in his stomach before he goes on stage, but I can’t do that. He might be the only artist ever that stands for hours signing autographs after a show. He does what he can and I find that absolutely admirable.”

Cliff says he was very impressed by Daniel as a performer when he went to see him in concert.

“I liked his style,” he tells me. “When I see him on stage I can see why the audiences love him. It’s the Irish charm. He’s got a way of speaking to them where they feel he’s talking just to them, and he’ll come up with a little story every now and then. I like that because I always like to speak to my crowd.

“Many modern bands don’t say much. I think that Daniel has got it, because if you can speak to your crowd, as I do and Daniel does, they go away not only having enjoyed the songs off the records they bought, or the songs that you sang that are new to them, but they go away knowing you a little bit more.

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Daniel O'Donnell with Majella, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard and Gloria Hunniford

Daniel O'Donnell with Majella, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard and Gloria Hunniford

Daniel O'Donnell with Majella, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard and Gloria Hunniford

“Even if you just say, ‘You’ll never guess who walked into my studio. Olivia Newton John came and asked me to do a duet.’ They love hearing that. And it’s nothing really, it’s just a little bit of news. So Daniel has got that absolutely to a tee. He knows what he’s doing, and he deserves every success he gets and long may it last.”

Cliff stresses that his friendship with Daniel and Majella is deep and meaningful, and not a shallow connection as entertainers.

“Our friendship is not just a showbiz one, it’s a genuine friendship,” Cliff says. “Sometimes people say to me, ‘Do you know Elton John?’ I say, ‘Yeah, I do know him. He’s the one that got me my first big hit in the States. But if you say, ‘Is he a friend?’, I would say we are really acquaintances.

“We meet up at a Royal Command Performance, and then we don’t meet each other for five years, whereas Daniel and I meet up regularly. It’s a relationship I’m happy with, I must say, and he is the most charming person. He is a very likeable man.

“Majella is fantastic as well. There is an honesty and an openness about her, and I like the fact that every now and then she gets away to that little island [Owey Island] where there is no electricity, and she escapes there to think about things. That is fantastic. We were very impressed with her, and we think Daniel is lucky to have her in his life.

“Majella, Daniel and I visit each other. I’ve stayed at their apartment in Dublin. They have come and stayed here in Barbados with me.”

Cliff also reveals how much he appreciated Daniel and Majella publicly supporting him when he was wrongly accused of a sexual assault in 2014. The false allegation made world headlines when the BBC filmed a police raid on his Berkshire home, including live shots from a helicopter.

“Daniel and Majella were publicly supportive, and they kept in contact with me, and that was terrific,” Cliff tells me. “They say you find out your friends in the bad times, and certainly they were a couple that I said, ‘These are really good friends.’

"They were constantly in touch with me. They would email or phone me, and it meant so much. And, of course, the more I got contacted by people, friends and even just some acquaintances, I realised that most people didn’t believe a single word of it.

“It helped me a great deal, but it didn’t actually solve the problem. I had to get through that period. And what was good for me eventually was the South Yorkshire Police in court publicly saying they were sorry.

“They apologised for putting me through the trauma, saying that they had made a mistake, whereas the BBC didn’t really apologise. I read a thing where the BBC said, ‘We were sorry that Cliff had to go through this.’ I’m thinking, that’s not really an apology. That means you feel it was okay to do it because it was your job. Never mind about someone being innocent and being put through that.”

Cliff says he’ll be forever grateful for how Daniel and Majella also rallied around him in person at the time. “They came and stayed with us,” he says.

“They came to Portugal while I was there, because I was trapped in Portugal for quite a long time over a two-year period. I decided not to speak to anybody until after the court case. After the police had apologised I did my first interview about the whole thing with Gloria Hunniford, another Irish person I know really well.”

As well as Daniel, Gloria Hunniford is part of Cliff’s close circle of friends that also included the late Cilla Black, who was his neighbour in Barbados.

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Daniel and Cliff perform on stage

Daniel and Cliff perform on stage

Daniel and Cliff perform on stage

Cilla died at the age of 72 after a fall at her Spanish home in Estepona in August 2015.

Daniel previously told how he and Majella enjoyed dinner parties with Cliff and Cilla, and how she once opened the door to them with a glass of Champagne in her hand and declared: “Come in darlings, I’m on a Champagne diet. I’ve lost three days already.”

Cliff laughs when I pass on this humorous anecdote. “Cilla was quite a character,” he says. “It was here in Barbados that we became friends, even though we’d known each other and had done each other’s TV shows. Like I said, there’s no real relationship if you don’t meet up.

“Here in Barbados we lived less than two miles from each other, and in the end I turned out to be her chauffeur because we got invited to the same parties and she didn’t drive.


“I said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll pick you up.’ I used to pick her up in my big truck and we went to all these parties together. That’s how you get to know people, when you dine together and they come in for a drink, or a coffee in the morning. Then you know that you’ve got friends.

“People had great respect for Cilla. She was funny and she was elegant. She is quite a loss for all of us.”

Both Cliff and Daniel are genuine legends of music, and when I mention this he recalls Bruce Welch of The Shadows pointing out that description of him in a newspaper article one day.

“Bruce said, ‘Look, they’re calling you a legend.’ I said, ‘Yes, isn’t it funny?’ And he said, ‘But remember how you spell legend. So really what they’re saying is that you are a ‘leg end.’ We had a good laugh. That put me in my place.”

After more than 60 years in the business, Cliff entered the British album charts at No 3 late last year with his latest album, Music…The Air That I Breathe.

Daniel had achieved the same chart position in the UK a few weeks earlier with his current self-titled album.

“Daniel has a similar record to me, not in eight decades, but he has been in the Top 20 of the British charts every year for 33 consecutive years,” Cliff acknowledges.

“We’ve both done what we do to the best of our ability, and a bunch of people like us. I don’t think either of us will ever retire.

“I told my manager I might stop one day. He said, ‘What do you mean, are you going to retire?’ I said, ‘No, I’m just going to stop and I’m not going to tell anybody because I might want to do something the next year…and I don’t want it to be a comeback.’

“I’m sure it’ll be the same with Daniel. Long may he continue and I wish him a fabulous 40th anniversary.”

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