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Olivia Newton-John (born September 26, 1948, Cambridge) is a British-born Australian singer and actress.
Olivia Newton-John, OBE is the granddaughter of Max Born, a German Jewish Nobel prize-winning physicist (although Olivia herself is a christian) who fled from 1930s Germany with his wife in order to avoid persecution due to their Jewish heritage.
Olivia's father, Brin Newton-John, was originally from Wales, Great Britain. Brin was the MI5 officer who took Rudolf Hess into custody when he parachuted into Scotland in May 1941. Brin was attached to the Enigma machine project at Bletchley Park. After World War II, he became a professor of German at the UNSW annex at Tighes Hill.
In 1954, at the age of five, Olivia, her parents, Brin and Irene Newton-John, and her older siblings, Hugh and Rona, relocated to Melbourne, Australia. Her father had taken a job at Melbourne University as the Dean of Ormond College. Her parents divorced when Olivia was eleven years old.
By the age of 15, Newton-John had formed an all-girl band, Sol Four, and soon was a regular on local television (such as The Happy Tarex Show as Lovely Livvy) and radio shows in Australia. She entered a talent contest on the television programme Sing, Sing, Sing, hosted by 1960s Australian icon Johnny O'Keefe, and performed the songs "Anyone Who Had A Heart" and "Everything's Coming Up Roses". She won the contest and received a trip to England as the prize. Initially, she did not want to go, but her mother encouraged her to broaden her horizons.
By 1963, Newton-John was appearing on the local daytime TV shows and weekly pop programs in Australia. It was on the Go Show, where she met her lifelong friends, Pat Carroll and John Farrar. (Carroll and Farrar eventually married.)
When she was 16 years old, Newton-John returned to England to live with her mother. Newton-John was homesick in England as she missed Australia and her then boyfriend, Ian Turpie. This changed when friend Pat Carroll also moved to England. The two formed a duo and toured nightclubs in Europe. After Carroll's visa expired, and she had to return to Australia, Newton-John cut her first solo single, "Till You Say You'll Be Mine", backed with "For Ever," for Decca Records in England in 1966.
Newton-John's first album was titled Toomorrow [sic], which was also the name of her musical group at the time. They were the brainchild of American producer Don Kirshner, creator of The Monkees. The group also starred in the movie Toomorrow.
Although the band and film were commercially unsuccessful, Newton-John's solo career started to take off with her first solo album titled Olivia Newton-John, which was released in the United Kingdom on Pye Records. Newton-John quickly became one of Britain's most popular singers. She was voted Best British Female Vocalist two years in a row by the magazine Record Mirror. In 1968 she met The Shadows' guitarist Bruce Welch, to whom she became engaged until 1972. They made appearances on Cliff Richard's weekly show It's Cliff Richard and she starred with Cliff in the telefilm The Case.
Newton-John's first international hit was a song written by Bob Dylan called "If Not For You," which was produced by Bruce Welch and her friend John Farrar and released in 1971. She represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 and came in at fourth place. Later in the year, the single "I Honestly Love You" was released in the United States and became her first single to chart at #1 across the Atlantic.
In 1975, encouraged by expatriate Australian singer Helen Reddy, Newton-John left England and moved to the United States, where she became a popular singer in both country and popular music. She had five #1 hits, including the song Physical, which stayed at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for ten weeks. She has received four Grammys in her career. She received an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth II in 1979.
In the country music field, she was respected and loved by fans as much as she was reviled by country purists who believed her brand of music had no place on country radio. In 1974, she won the Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year award, beating out such country heavyweights as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Anne Murray and Tanya Tucker Another country icon, Tammy Wynette, was not even nominated. Newton-John's win angered many pure country artists and fans, and perhaps as a direct result, some country artists and other influential personalities became members of a newly formed organization called the Association of Country Entertainers.
Film and television
Newton-John's film breakthrough came when she was offered the female lead in Grease (1978), after a chance meeting with producer Allan Carr at a party at Helen Reddy's house in Los Angeles. John Travolta, already chosen as the male lead in the movie, wanted Newton-John to be his co-star in the film, and he let his wishes be known to Carr and director Randal Kleiser before either of them met Newton-John. Concerned that she was either too old or not confident enough to play the part, Newton-John insisted on a screen test with Travolta. She liked what she saw when she viewed the test and then happily signed on for the project, shot in the summer of 1977.
The film was the biggest box office hit of 1978 and remained popular enough that it was re-released in theaters in the United States on its 20th anniversary. Two songs from the movie soundtrack, "You're The One That I Want" and "Summer Nights," went to #1 on US and international charts and stood at the #1 position for nine and seven weeks respectively on the UK charts. Newton-John's solo number "Hopelessly Devoted To You" was also a hit. The album was also a huge hit in Australia and Newton-John attended the premiere of the film in both Sydney and her hometown Melbourne. She was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Musical for her role in "Grease".
To follow this success, Newton-John released the album Totally Hot in 1978 with extensive promotion. The release was another critical and commercial success. It spawned the smash hit "A Little More Love," # 11 single "Deeper Than The Night," and the # 52 title track "Totally Hot." A more ambitious album than some of Newton-John's earlier releases, the record included both sexy up-tempo numbers (including a spirited remake of the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin"), alongside characteristically beautiful ballads. With this, Newton-John further established herself as one of the most versatile and appealing female pop vocalists of her generation. The album also cemented Newton-John's transformation into a sex symbol.
In 1980, she took the lead with Gene Kelly and Michael Beck in the musical feature film, Xanadu. While at the time, the movie was considered a critical and commercial failure, over the years, it has gained a considerable cult following. The Xanadu soundtrack had several commercially successful singles. Its production was a collaborative effort with Electric Light Orchestra. In 1981, Newton-John received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of her outstanding career.
In 1983, she re-teamed with John Travolta in the critically and commercially unsuccessful Two of a Kind, redeemed by fans as the source of a successful soundtrack including "Twist of Fate" and a new duet with Travolta, "Take a Chance". She also appeared in a dramatically different role in Del Shore's Sordid Lives as Bitsy Mae Harling, a lesbian ex-con country and western singer (a long way from her role as Sandy in Grease).
Newton-John has done a body of television work as well. She starred in the television movies A Mom For Christmas and A Christmas Romance. She has also guest-starred in sitcoms (mostly as herself) such as Murphy Brown, Bette, and Ned and Stacey and the made for TV film The Wilde Girls, which featured her daughter Chloe Rose Lattanzi.
Newton-John has also hosted Wild Life, a show about animals and nature, two major preoccupations for Newton-John. She was a guest star in two episodes of the Australian series The Man From Snowy River as Joanna.
In 1983, Newton-John and longtime friend Pat Farrar founded Koala Blue, a chain of women's clothing boutiques, with the designs of the apparel based on the unique style and colours of Australia. The chain was successful for some time but eventually went out of business. However, Newton-John and Farrar have licensed the brand name for a line of Australian produced wines, confections, and other items.
In 1992 Newton-John underwent breast cancer surgery, from which she recovered. She now actively promotes public awareness of the importance of early detection of the disease. In October 2005, she released Stronger Than Before, an album promoting breast cancer awareness, sold exclusively through Hallmark Gold Crown╝ stores.
In 1998 Newton-John, John Farnham and Anthony Warlow formed a powerful trio on the Main Event tour which travelled to all major Australian capital cities and spawned a Top 10 CD which won an ARIA Award for Highest Selling Australian CD. In 2002, Newton-John was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.
She sang the duet "Dare to Dream" with John Farnham at the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She was also an Olympic torch bearer, running the route around the Sydney Opera House on the eve of the opening ceremony.
In 2002, Newton-John released 2, a duets album featuring singers such as Darren Hayes, Tina Arena, Jimmy Little and Billy Thorpe as well as heartfelt duet-tributes with Peter Allen and Johnny O'Keefe. The album went in the Top 5 in Australia, followed by a successful Australian tour playing in Australia's main cities' entertainment centres and theatres.
2004 saw the death of her mother Irene and the release of Indigo: Women of Song, a tribute album covering songs by The Carpenters, Minnie Riperton, Doris Day, Nina Simone, Joan Baez, and others. Newton-John dedicated the album to her mother and the record went gold in Australia.
Newton-John continued with her U.S. tour in 2005 to support her new album Stronger Than Before. She chose the song "Serenity," a cut from this album which is based on a popular prayer, to end the show, instead of her signature closer, "I Honestly Love You." In November 2005, she attended the Country Music Awards in New York City accompanied by long time friend Cliff Richard. She is scheduled to perform in Japan, New Zealand, and Australia in early 2006.
Newton-John was married to Matt Lattanzi from 1984 to 1995. There is one child from this marriage, Chloe Rose Lattanzi, born in 1986. Chloe has plans to launch herself as a pop singer with a new album almost ready for release tentatively titled Lonely Nights in Paradise.
From 1996, Newton-John lived together with gaffer/cameraman Patrick McDermott. However, in the summer of 2005, directly before her new album Stronger Than Before hit stores, McDermott went missing following a June 30 fishing trip off the California coast. The Coast Guard has not ruled out the possibility of foul play but concede they have few leads. Olivia Newton-John is not considered a suspect in the case.
Billboard Hot 100 placements
Only Top Ten hits from the Billboard Hot 100 are included in this list.
"Let Me Be There" (b/w "Maybe Then I'll Think Of You") — (1973) — (#6; Country #7; Adult Contemporary #3 and a Grammy winner for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female; from the album Let Me Be There)
"If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" (b/w "Brotherly Love") — (1974) — (#5; Country #2; Adult Contemporary #2 from the album of the same name)
"I Honestly Love You" (b/w "Home Ain't Home Anymore")- (1974) — (#1, 2 weeks; Country #6; Adult Contemporary #1 (3 weeks) and a Grammy winner for Pop Vocal Performance, Female, and Record of the Year; from the album If You Love Me, Let Me Know) Recharted in 1977 at #48 Pop and #49 AC (b/w "Don't Cry For Me Argentina"), and in 1998 (newly recorded version) at #68 Pop and #18 AC
"Have You Never Been Mellow" (b/w "Water Under The Bridge") — (1975) — (#1, 1 week; also Adult Contemporary #1, 1 week; Country #3; from the album of the same name)
"Please Mr. Please" (b/w "And In The Morning") — (1975) — (#3; also Adult Contemporary #1, 3 weeks; Country #5; from the album Have You Never Been Mellow)
"You're The One That I Want" (b/w the instrumental "Alone At A Drive-In Movie") — (1978; duet with John Travolta) — (#1, 1 week; Adult Contemporary #23 from the Grease soundtrack)
"Hopelessly Devoted To You" (b/w the instrumental "Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing") — (1978) — (#3; Adult Contemporary #7; Country #20; from the Grease soundtrack)
"Summer Nights" (b/w "Rock 'N' Roll Party Queen" by Louis St. Louis) — (1978; duet with John Travolta) — (#5; Adult Contemporary #21; from the Grease soundtrack)
"A Little More Love" (b/w "Borrowed Time") — (1978) — (#3; Adult Contemporary #4; Country #94; from the album Totally Hot)
"Magic" (b/w "Fool Country") — (1980) — (#1, 4 weeks; also Adult Contemporary #1 (5 weeks); from the Xanadu soundtrack)
"Xanadu" (b/w the Newton-John/Gene Kelly duet "Whenever You're Away From Me") — (1980, featuring the Electric Light Orchestra) — (#8, Adult Contemporary #2 in the US, but a massive #1 in the UK; the movie title song)
"Physical" (b/w "The Promise (The Dolphin Song)") — (1981) — (#1, 10 weeks; Adult Contemporary #29; from the album of the same name)
"Make A Move On Me" (b/w "Falling") — (1982) — (#5; Adult Contemporary #6; from the album Physical)
"Heart Attack" — (1982) — (#3; from the album Olivia's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2)
"Twist Of Fate" (b/w the Newton-John/Travolta duet "Take A Chance") — (1983) — (#5; from the Two of a Kind soundtrack) NOTE: "Twist Of Fate" was too hard-edged a song for Adult Contemporary stations to play, but "Take A Chance" did get AC airplay and got all the way to #3 on the AC chart.
Olivia's other Top 40 Pop hits include:
"If Not For You" b/w "The Biggest Clown" (1971) — #25 Pop/#1 AC
"Something Better To Do" b/w "He's My Rock" (1975) — #12 Pop/#1 AC
"Let It Shine/He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" (1975) — #30 Pop/#1 AC
"Come On Over" b/w "Small Talk And Pride" (1976) — #23 Pop/#1 AC
"Don't Stop Believin'" b/w "Greensleeves" (1976) — #33 Pop/#1 AC
"Sam" b/w "I'll Bet You A Kangaroo" (1977) — #20 Pop/#1 AC
"Deeper Than The Night" b/w "Please Don't Keep Me Waiting" (1979) — #11 Pop/#4 AC
"I Can't Help It" b/w Andy Gibb's "Someone I Ain't" (1980) — #12 Pop/#8 AC (duet with Andy Gibb)
"Suddenly" b/w Newton-John's solo "You Made Me Love You" (1980) — #20 Pop/#4 AC (duet with Cliff Richard)
"Tied Up" (1983) — #38 Pop
"Livin' In Desperate Times" (1984) — #31 Pop
"Soul Kiss" b/w "Electric" (1985) — #20 Pop/#20 AC
Toomorrow soundtrack (1970)
If Not For You (1971) # 158 Pop
Music Makes My Day (1973)
Long Live Love (1974)
If You Love Me, Let Me Know (1974) # 1 Pop (1 week), # 1 Country (8 weeks)
Have You Never Been Mellow (1975) # 1 Pop (1 week), # 1 Country (6 weeks)
Clearly Love (1975) # 12 Pop, #6 Country
Come On Over (1976) # 13 Pop, # 2 Country
Don't Stop Believin' (1976) # 33 Pop, # 7 Country
Making A Good Thing Better (1977) # 34 Pop, # 13 Country
Olivia Newton-John's Greatest Hits (1977) # 13 Pop, # 7 Country
Grease Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1978) # 1 Pop (12 weeks)
Totally Hot (1978) # 7 Pop, # 4 Country
Xanadu Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1980) # 4 Pop
Love Performance: Olivia Live in Japan (1981)
Physical (1981) # 6 Pop
Olivia's Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1982) # 16 Pop
Two of a Kind soundtrack (1983) # 26 Pop
Soul Kiss (1985) # 29 Pop
The Rumour (1988) # 67 Pop
Warm and Tender (1989) # 124 Pop
Back to Basics: The Essential Collection 1971√1992 (1992) # 121 Pop
Heathcliff (1995) (w/ Cliff Richard)
Back With A Heart (1998) # 59 Pop, # 9 Country
One Woman's Live Journey (2000)
'Tis the Season (2000) (w/ Vince Gill and The Bradford Singers
Sordid Lives soundtrack (2001)
Magic: The Very Best of Olivia Newton-John (2001)
The Christmas Collection (2001)
Indigo: Women of Song (2004)
Stronger Than Before (2005)
Funny Things Happen Down Under (1965)
Two of a Kind (1983)
She's Having a Baby (1988) (cameo)
Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991) (documentary)
It's My Party (1996)
Sordid Lives (2000)
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