Sir Cliff Richard turns 72 next month, looks at least 20 years younger, and has accomplished so much that to list every achievement would take up most of this page.
But is Richard, who will perform three shows in New Zealand in January, happy and content? Not entirely, he says from New York.
"The biggest change is the attitude of radio now for us. It is different. I realised a long time ago that although I could argue and win some battles, I could never actually win the war.
"What they've actually done is taken away what I consider myself to be in – the aspect of my life that's nearest and dearest to me – which is being a recording artist. I can still record records, but with no guarantee that anybody will ever play them again. It's just one of those things. And it's just not me, there's a whole number of people that are not on [radio] playlists. No names mentioned – but I've had people say, 'oh we don't play that person's records' and I'm thinking, 'where do we go?'
He doesn't sound bitter or a music veteran about to become a septuagenarian curmudgeon. He's relaxed and good-humoured. But he's aware of the contradiction. He's one of the biggest names in popular music. He still sells lots of albums and packs out venues. Even teenagers know who he is. He performed at the Diamond Jubilee this year. He donned a track suit and carried the Olympic Games torch. But at the same time, he's ignored by parts of the entertainment industry.
"When I started, with The Shadows and Marty Wilde and Billy Fury and others in Britain taking on the rock 'n' roll mantle from America, our records had to be played in between Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Teresa Brewer, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald. Sometimes you won and sometimes you lost, but we were competing with the iconic people.
"I don't know why that should have changed now. The new bands just compete among themselves. I miss that. But you can't force people to play your records. If you could, I'd condemn it. It's just one of those things you've got to live with. You think, 'OK, that's a major change in our industry and if you want to stick around and be part of the industry in some way you have to get past it'."
Richard says he's got past it by concentrating on special recording projects. One of his biggest successes, which emerged in the 1980s, was his ability as a duettist. His duet partners have included Olivia Newton-John, Lulu, Sir Elton John, Janet Jackson and Van Morrison. But while critics praised Richard as "one of the finest harmony singers working in the field of popular music", he's philosophical about how it helped his career. "You don't necessarily need the airplay to make it a hit. It's just because you recorded with all these different artists people go, 'What? Cliff Richard! Oh, I can listen to that'. There'll be an interest and they'll listen to it and if they like it, they'll buy it."
Recent special projects have included 2010's Bold as Brass, where he recorded with a swing band – "I enjoyed that really a lot and it went gold in Britain". Last year he recorded Soulicious in Memphis and New York, produced by soul legends Lamont Dozier and Ashford & Simpson. It got into the British top 10.
A jaw-dropping fact about Soulicious: it was Richard's 89th studio album. Add to that the 123 hit singles since 1958, the fact he's been in the singles charts in every decade since the 1950s and is the third biggest selling recording act in British history – then maybe it's easier to understand Richard's bewilderment with today's DJs.
It's also because radio propelled him to stardom. Like many musicians in the 1950s, including John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney, Richard went through a skiffle phase. But his American rock 'n' roll-influenced single Move It sounded like nothing else in British pop music.
It made him his era's equivalent of a one-man One Direction before even a few of the parents of the boy band were born. The hits continued through the 60s and the 70s. But he's aware that any artist with his longevity will have his ups and downs, just like John and McCartney.
In 1998 Richard proved his long-held belief that some British radio stations had effectively banned him, when he released the single Can't Keep This Feeling In under the pseudonym Blacknight. "It was one of those battles I did win, Tom. I was trying to say, 'why are we not being played?'
"It was a very rhythm and blues track with a lot of falsetto in it. I said to Clive Black, who was finding songs for me, 'I'd love to release this'. He was the Black and I was the Knight of the Realm."
The single was released as a "white label", where it had little detail about the artist. "We made three soul charts and I got comments like, 'we don't know who the singer is but he's wicked'. Hey, man, I'm wicked!
"Then one of the DJs phoned me and said, 'OK, I've discovered it's you. Can you phone into my radio station and I'll ask you who you are and I'll ask you if you sung the song?' I did that – and then it was taken off the playlist. It was ridiculous."
But still, Richard wishes radio would listen. "What I used to love of course was going into a studio and talk about the songs and say 'what if we do this?, what if we do that?', and then you created something. The record came out and it would have been the first time that had ever happened to that song. You present to the public and if they like it they buy it. So there's an element that's changed that's beyond my understanding and it's beyond my control.
"But I still enjoy everything the last 54 years have given me – and go on tour."
Cliff Richard's Still Reeeling and A Rockin' Tour
January 26, Auckland, Vector Arena
January 28, Wellington, TSB Arena
January 31, Christchurch, CBS Arena
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