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Cliff Bergdahl (1946-2020) Remembering a friend

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We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our old friend and Plankton recording artist CLIFF BERGDAHL on Tuesday December 29th 2020 from COVID. As we post this, Cliff’s wife Char is/was in hospital still battling with COVID herself. So please keep Char and all of their family in your prayers with all they have and are going through and dealing with.

Cliff released 5 projects with Plankton Records. In the 1980s there were 3 Really Free Band releases (2 cassettes and a vinyl LP) and then I (Keith Dixon) met with Cliff more and got to know him properly when we were sorting out the artwork etc for his mid-1990s solo album and more recently I worked very closely with him on the 2018 family EP released under the name ‘Bergdahl & Fielding’ which featured Cliff & Char, their children and their grand children too – a very musical family!

But our founder and still current Plankton partner SIMON LAW goes way back with Cliff – to the mid 70s and pre- Plankton days! Simon writes in memory and recognition of his and our old friend…

“I first met Cliff at a Youth for Christ ‘Coffee Bar’ being held in Churchill Baptist Church in Walthamstow, East London on Saturday 24th November 1973. He was playing with his band “Really Free”, with Mark Millin on drums and Steve Coburn on bass. I was immediately struck by the music – especially the epic ‘Pray for Belfast’ about the troubles in Northern Ireland – but also the communication. Cliff was an evangelist and spoke about Christ before every song! The DJ in the church hall that night was playing some acetates that I had recorded with Dennis Blackham – Cliff thought that I was the guitarist and asked me to join the band! I had to confess that the lead guitar was being played by session musician Chris West, and that I hadn’t reached that standard (yet!). I didn’t join that night (the pull of the band I was currently in and my girlfriend – who was the bassist – was too strong). However, fast forward nine months to August 1974. My band “Ebb Tied” were playing at the ‘Bromley Festival of Praise’ with “Really Free” (see * below). Cliff’s rhythm section was on the verge of leaving, and he asked me once again to join – I started thinking about it once more, and finally did join the band in November of that year.

Cliff was born in Queens, New York and came to England in 1968 to study Theology at London Bible College – and never went home – eventually adopting British citizenship. He formed “Really Free” in 1973 and worked for British Youth for Christ as an evangelist and schools’ worker for many years. Later he was Ordained in the American Presbyterian Church, the British equivalent of his denomination is the United Reformed Church.

Cliff was a very good guitarist, keyboard player and vocalist. He wrote some great songs which communicated his faith. He had perfect pitch – and would sometimes wander across the stage and tune my bass (whilst I was playing it) if the tuning had slipped!

One incident to share from my time on the road with Cliff. In June 1975 we were touring in Scotland and the third week we ended up in Ayr on the West Coast. The local paper ran a piece about the ‘Jesus Freak rock band “Really Free”’ were coming to the Ayr Academy, describing us as ‘graduates of the London Bible College’. In the first RE lesson in school, we confessed that only Cliff was a graduate – the rest of us were simply off the street! The RE teacher promptly threw us out of the school for coming in under false pretences. So, we hastily rearranged the lunch-time gig to take place in Fort Street Baptist Church. The whole school came – and it was one of the most amazing gigs that I did with Cliff!

Cliff’s heart was for the Gospel and he worked tirelessly for all of his life to bring people to Jesus – using whatever means possible. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.” Rev. Simon Law Rector of Pitsea with Nevendon/Partner in Plankton Records

*a live recording of Wayfaring Stranger by “Really Free” from that gig in Bromley still survives on the British Youth for Christ album ‘Together Apart’ released by Dovetail Records (GEN 009) 1976.