- Jayne From The Andromeda Spiral
Clifford Thomas Ward (10 February 1944 – 18 December 2001) was a popular English singer-songwriter, best known for his career as a solo artist.
Born in Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, Ward was one of five children, having one sister and three brothers. He was educated at Stourport Secondary Modern School, and there he met his wife, Pat, when she was 13 years old, and he 14. At school he spent some time as a choir boy. Ward and Pat married when he was 17 and she 16, after Pat became pregnant with the first of their four children: Debbie, Martin, Sam and Polly.
In 1962, shortly after leaving school, Ward formed a beat band “Cliff Ward and the Cruisers”. The band was popular in Birmingham and also in demand at American Army bases in France. It was during this time abroad that Ward wrote “Home Thoughts from Abroad” (a song that would later appear on his second solo album and also as the B-side of “Gaye”).
In the mid 1960s and after several member changes, the group was renamed ‘Martin Raynor and The Secrets’ with Ward in the role of the elusive Raynor. The fictitious name was soon dropped and the band continued on as ‘Raynor’s Secrets’, and went on to tour around Britain and France, achieving moderate success.
In 1968, following the demise of The Secrets, Ward decided he needed to get “a real job”, and so spent the following three years at a teacher training college, ultimately finding employment at nearby North Bromsgrove High School, teaching English and drama. One of his pupils was the future wife of Sting, Trudie Styler. The children heard singing on Ward’s early albums were from North Bromsgrove High School. In his spare time, he continued songwriting and recorded his first solo album Singer Songwriter. Singer Songwriter was released in 1972 on Dandelion Records (a label formed by the disc jockey John Peel) just before it went into liquidation. As a result, the album received little media coverage and went largely unnoticed.
Signing a new recording contract with Charisma Records, Ward went on to have a hit with the single “Gaye”. It sold over a million copies worldwide and reached number 8 in the UK Singles Chart in July 1973.
In July 1973, following the success of “Gaye”, Ward’s second album Home Thoughts achieved healthy sales and reached number 40 in the UK Albums Chart. At this point, wanting to concentrate on music full-time, he gave up the teaching profession. He made a rare public appearance in August, performing “Gaye” on Top of the Pops. In January 1974 Ward entered the singles chart again at number 37 with “Scullery”, a track from his third album Mantle Pieces.
Subsequent singles, notably “No More Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “Jigsaw Girl”, “Ocean of Love” and “I Got Lost Tonight” (written by the US singer-songwriter Tim Moore, one of the very rare occasions when he recorded outside material) were loved by BBC Radio presenters and programmers but Ward never made it into the UK charts again. It was said that he would have had more commercial success were it not for his dislike of touring, public appearances, interviews and photo shoots.“The Best is Yet to Come”, from the album Both of Us, enjoyed success when covered by Justin Hayward, and his songs were recorded by Cliff Richard, Jack Jones, Art Garfunkel, and Judy Collins. He was compared to Paul McCartney by reviewers and his songs have strong melodies and concise, original lyrics.
In 1987, Ward was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He continued to record and write songs while living at home, cared for by his wife Pat. In 1994, Ward was interviewed by local newspaper, the Wolverhampton Express & Star. He told reporter Aidan Goldstraw: “I have not and will not come to terms with this illness. There are times — usually quite late at night — when I’m almost normal again. But unless they find a cure for this dreadful MS, then I don’t see a future”.
Also then, he recorded his eleventh and what would be his last new album, Julia and Other New Stories, crawling on all fours into his home-based recording studio to finish it. At around the same time, a stage musical, Shattered World, was produced as a tribute to him, based on his life and his battle against MS. Half of the songs were Ward’s own, and half were numbers written by others about him.