To his millions of devoted admirers, Sir Cliff Richard is the perennial Bachelor Boy, the squeaky-clean singer who has always put his strong Christian faith before the familiar rock ‘n’ roll vices of drugs, drink and women.
But for one man, the avowedly celibate Sir Cliff — still celebrated at the age of 73 as the improbably youthful ‘Peter Pan of Pop’ — is the central figure of a ‘curse’ that has blighted his life and fractured his warring family.
Ricky Harris’s earliest memories are of repeatedly being taken by his mother to visit the star backstage at his concerts and in hotel rooms.
The visits, plus repeated family whispers, have left 53-year-old Ricky with a welter of unanswered questions that lead him to believe he is Cliff’s son — the result of an illicit affair the star had with his mother just as he was singing his way to fame with The Shadows.
Ricky says: “I’m not after anything from Cliff. I don’t want his money. I am just trying to find peace of mind.
“For more than 50 years I have been the man in the middle. All I’m asking is that Cliff takes a DNA test to put my mind at rest once and for all. I plan to begin legal proceedings to start this process and, if I’m wrong, I will apologise to him.”
Intriguingly, Ricky’s claims are not as far-fetched as they may at first appear. According to his birth certificate, his parents are the late Jet Harris — The Shadows’ original bass player and another central figure in the birth of British pop — and Jet’s first wife Carol Costa, who Cliff himself has acknowledged as the only woman he has ever shared a bed with.
The extraordinary and passionate love triangle between Carol, Cliff and Jet remained a closely guarded secret for more than 30 years until Carol revealed the details for the first time in 1990. All three protagonists have subsequently spoken in interviews and memoirs about what was clearly a deeply traumatic event for all of them.
Jet, who died two years ago aged 71, always blamed the affair for his abrupt departure from The Shadows in 1962 and his subsequent descent into 30 years of alcoholism.
Carol, according to her family, has never really recovered from the affair. One of her sons, 50-year-old Terry Slade, calls it “the Curse of Cliff Richard”.
Cliff once gave an interview in which he said he felt ‘great sorrow’ about the long-term effect on Carol. “I feel guilty about it,” he said. “My career has done this to her.”
The young Cliff called off the affair on the instructions of his horrified mother Dorothy — an overwhelming influence throughout his life — who discovered a love letter from Carol, containing details of their love-making, tucked under his pillow. Famously, he has had few subsequent relationships and never married.