Dame Olivia Newton-John
Dame Olivia Newton-John AC DBE (26 September 1948 – 8 August 2022) was a British and Australian singer, actress and activist.
She was a four-time Grammy Award winner whose music career included five number one hits and another ten Top Ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and two Billboard 200 number one albums, If You Love Me, Let Me Know (1974) and Have You Never Been Mellow (1975). Eleven of her singles (including two Platinum) and 14 of her albums (including two Platinum and four 2× Platinum) have been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). With global sales of more than 100 million records, Newton-John is one of the best-selling music artists from the second half of the 20th century to the present.
In 1978, Newton-John starred in the musical film Grease, whose soundtrack remains one of the world's best-selling albums of recorded music. It features two major hit duets with co-star John Travolta: "You're the One That I Want" – which ranks as one of the best-selling singles of all time – and "Summer Nights". Her signature solo recordings include the Record of the Year Grammy winner "I Honestly Love You" (1974) and "Physical" (1981) – Billboard's Top Hot 100 Single of the 1980s. Her other major hit singles include "If Not for You" (1971), "Let Me Be There" (1973), "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" (1974), "Have You Never Been Mellow" (1975), "Sam" (1977), "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (also from Grease), "A Little More Love" (1978) and, from the 1980 film Xanadu, "Magic" and "Xanadu" (with the Electric Light Orchestra).
Newton-John was an activist for environmental and animal rights causes, and advocated for breast cancer research.
Newton-John was born on 26 September 1948 in Cambridge, United Kingdom, to Welshman Brinley "Bryn" Newton-John (1914–1992) and Irene Helene (née Born; 1914–2003).
Her Jewish maternal grandfather, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Max Born, fled with his wife and children to Britain from Germany before World War II to escape the Nazi regime. Newton-John's maternal grandmother was of paternal Jewish ancestry as well; through her, she was a third cousin of comedian Ben Elton. Her maternal great-grandfather was the jurist Victor Ehrenberg and her matrilineal great-grandmother's father was the jurist Rudolf von Jhering.
Newton-John's father was an MI5 officer on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park who took Rudolf Hess into custody during World War II. After the war, he became the headmaster of the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys and was in this position when Olivia was born.
Newton-John was the youngest of three children, following her brother Hugh (1939–2019), a medical doctor, and her sister Rona (1941–2013), an actress who was married to Olivia's Grease co-star Jeff Conaway (from 1980 until their divorce in 1985). In 1954, when she was six, Newton-John's family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia, where her father worked as a professor of German and as the master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne.
She attended Christ Church Grammar School in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra and then the University High School in Parkville.
At age 14, Newton-John formed Sol Four, a short-lived all-girl group, with three classmates, often performing in a coffee shop owned by her brother-in-law. She became a regular on local Australian television shows including Time for Terry and HSV-7's The Happy Show where she performed as "Lovely Livvy".
She also appeared on The Go!! Show where she met future duet partner, singer Pat Carroll, and her future music producer, John Farrar (Carroll and Farrar would later marry). In 1965 she entered and won a talent contest on the television program Sing, Sing, Sing, hosted by 1960s Australian icon Johnny O'Keefe, performing the songs "Anyone Who Had a Heart" and "Everything's Coming Up Roses". She was initially reluctant to use the prize she had won, a trip to Great Britain, but travelled there nearly a year later after her mother encouraged her to broaden her horizons.
Newton-John recorded her first single, "Till You Say You'll Be Mine", in Britain for Decca Records in 1966. While in Britain, Newton-John missed her then-boyfriend, Ian Turpie, with whom she had co-starred in an Australian telefilm, Funny Things Happen Down Under. She repeatedly booked trips back to Australia that her mother would subsequently cancel.
Newton-John's outlook changed when Pat Carroll moved to the UK. The two formed a duo called "Pat and Olivia" and toured nightclubs in Europe. (In one incident, they were booked at Paul Raymond's Revue in Soho, London, and were unaware that it was a strip club until they began to perform onstage dressed primly in frilly, high-collared dresses.) After Carroll's visa expired, forcing her to return to Australia, Newton-John remained in Britain to pursue solo work until 1975.
Newton-John was recruited for the group Toomorrow, formed by American producer Don Kirshner. In 1970, the group starred in a "science fiction musical" film and recorded an accompanying soundtrack album, on RCA Records, both named after the group. That same year the group made two single recordings, "You're My Baby Now"/"Goin' Back" and "I Could Never Live Without Your Love"/"Roll Like a River". Neither track became a chart success and the project failed with the group disbanding.Early success
Newton-John released her first solo album, If Not for You (US No. 158 Pop), in 1971. (In the UK, the album was known as Olivia Newton-John.) The title track, written by Bob Dylan and previously recorded by former Beatle George Harrison for his 1970 album All Things Must Pass, was her first international hit (US No. 25 Pop, No. 1 Adult Contemporary/"AC"). Her follow-up single, "Banks of the Ohio", was a top 10 hit in the UK and Australia. She was voted Best British Female Vocalist two years in a row by the magazine Record Mirror. She made frequent appearances on Cliff Richard's weekly show It's Cliff Richard and starred with him in the telefilm The Case.
In 1972, Newton-John's second UK album, Olivia, was released but never formally issued in the United States, where her career floundered after If Not for You. Subsequent singles including "Banks of the Ohio" (No. 94 Pop, No. 34 AC) and remakes of George Harrison's "What Is Life" (No. 34 AC) and John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" (No. 119 Pop) made minimal impact on the Hot 100. However, her fortune changed with the release of "Let Me Be There" in 1973. The song reached the American top 10 on the Pop (No. 6), Country (No. 7), and AC (No. 3) charts and earned her a Grammy for Best Country Female and an Academy of Country Music award for Most Promising Female Vocalist.
Her second American album, named Let Me Be There after the hit single, was actually her third in Britain, where the LP was known as Music Makes My Day. The record was also called Let Me Be There in Australia; however, the US and Canadian versions featured an alternate track list that mixed new cuts with selections from Olivia and also recycled six songs from If Not for You, which was going out of print.
In 1974, Newton-John represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Long Live Love". The song was chosen for Newton-John by the British public out of six possible entries (Newton-John later admitted that she disliked the song). Newton-John finished fourth at the contest, held in Brighton, behind the Swedish winning entry, "Waterloo" by ABBA. All six Eurovision contest song candidates—"Have Love, Will Travel", "Lovin' You Ain't Easy", "Long Live Love", "Someday", "Angel Eyes" and "Hands Across the Sea"—were recorded by Newton-John and included on her Long Live Love album, her first for the EMI Records label.
The Long Live Love album was released in the US and Canada as If You Love Me, Let Me Know. All the Eurovision entries were dropped for different and more country-flavoured tunes intended to capitalise on the success of "Let Me Be There"; the North American outing not only used selections from Long Live Love but also Olivia and Music Makes My Day, and only the titular cut was new. If You Love Me, Let Me Know's title track was its first single and reached No. 5 Pop, No. 2 Country (her best country position to date) and No. 2 AC. The next single, "I Honestly Love You", became Newton-John's signature song. Written and composed by Jeff Barry and Peter Allen, the ballad became her first Pop number-one (staying there for two weeks), second AC number-one (for three weeks) and third top 10 Country (No. 6) hit and earned Newton-John two more Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female. The success of both singles helped the album reach No. 1 on both the Pop (one week) and Country (eight weeks) albums charts.
In the UK and Australia, "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" was featured on compilations titled First Impressions and Great Hits! First Impressions respectively.
In America, Newton-John's success in country music sparked a debate among purists, who took issue with a foreigner singing country-flavoured pop music being classed with native Nashville artists. In addition to her Grammy for "Let Me Be There", Newton-John was also named the Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year in 1974, defeating more established Nashville-based nominees Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker, as well as Canadian artist Anne Murray.
This protest, in part, led to the formation of the short-lived Association of Country Entertainers (ACE). Newton-John was eventually supported by the country music community. Stella Parton, Dolly's sister, recorded "Ode to Olivia" and Newton-John recorded her 1976 album, Don't Stop Believin', in Nashville.Newton-John in 1978
Encouraged by expatriate Australian singer Helen Reddy, Newton-John left the UK and moved to the US. Newton-John topped the Pop (one week) and Country (six weeks) albums charts with her next album, Have You Never Been Mellow. For 45 years, Olivia held the Guinness World Record for the shortest gap (154 days) by a female between new Number 1 albums (If You Love Me, Let Me Know > Have You Never Been Mellow) on the US Billboard 200 album charts until Taylor Swift in 2020 (140 days with folklore > evermore) . The album generated two singles – the John Farrar-penned title track (No. 1 Pop, No. 3 Country, No. 1 AC) and "Please Mr. Please" (No. 3 Pop, No. 5 Country, No. 1 AC). However, her pop career cooled with the release of her next album, Clearly Love. Her streak of five consecutive gold top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 ended when the album's first single, "Something Better to Do", stopped at No. 13 (also No. 19 Country and No. 1 AC). Although her albums still achieved gold status, she did not return to the top 10 on the Hot 100 or Billboard 200 charts again until 1978.
Newton-John's singles continued to easily top the AC chart, where she ultimately amassed ten No. 1 singles including a record seven consecutively:
- "I Honestly Love You" (1974) – 3 weeks
- "Have You Never Been Mellow" (1975) – 1 week
- "Please Mr. Please" (1975) – 3 weeks
- "Something Better to Do" (1975) – 3 weeks
- "Let It Shine"/"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" (1976) – 2 weeks
- "Come on Over" (1976) – 1 week
- "Don't Stop Believin'" (1976) – 1 week
She provided a prominent, but uncredited, vocal on John Denver's "Fly Away" single, which was succeeded by her own single, "Let It Shine"/"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", at No. 1 on the AC chart. ("Fly Away" returned to No. 1 after the two-week reign of "Let It Shine".) Newton-John also continued to reach the Country top 10 where she tallied seven top 10 singles through 1976's "Come on Over" (No. 23 Pop, No. 5 Country, No. 1 AC) and six consecutive (of a career nine total) top 10 albums through 1976's Don't Stop Believin' (No. 30 Pop, No. 7 Country). She headlined her first US television special, A Special Olivia Newton-John, in November 1976.
In 1977, the single "Sam", a mid-tempo waltz from Don't Stop Believin', returned her to the No. 1 spot on the AC (No. 40 Country) and also reached No. 20 Pop, her highest chart placement since "Something Better to Do". By mid-1977, Newton-John's pop, AC and country success all suffered a slight blow. Her Making a Good Thing Better album (No. 34 Pop, No. 13 Country) failed to be certified gold, and its only single, the title track (No. 87 Pop, No. 20 AC), did not reach the AC top 10 or the Country chart. However, later that year, Olivia Newton-John's Greatest Hits (No. 13 Pop, No. 7 Country) became her first platinum album.
Newton-John was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1979 New Year Honours and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to charity, cancer research and entertainment.Lawsuit against MCA Records
In April 1975, Newton-John and MCA entered into an initial two-year, four-album deal in which she was expected to deliver two LPs a year for the record company. MCA also had the option of extending the contract for six more records and three more years; and if the artist did not deliver on time, MCA was allegedly allowed to increase the term of the commitment to account for the lateness.
Per her new agreement with MCA, Newton-John's first three albums, beginning with Clearly Love, came out on schedule; however, her fourth, Making a Good Thing Better, was late. This delay occurred around the same time she was working on Grease for RSO Records, and the postponement arguably gave MCA—which seemed to want to keep its hold on the performer—the right to exercise its option, extend its contract and stop her from signing with another enterprise. Newton-John also did not deliver a "newly optioned" album.
On 31 May 1978, Newton-John and MCA each filed breach-of-contract actions against the other. Newton-John sued for $10 million and claimed that MCA's failure to adequately promote and advertise her product freed her from their agreement. MCA's counter suit requested $1 million in damages and an injunction against the singer working with another music firm.
Ultimately, Newton-John was forbidden from offering her recording services to another label until the five-year pact had run its course; however, the original covenant was not automatically extended, even though Newton-John had not duly supplied the total sum of vinyls indicated in the contract.
As a result of the lawsuit, record companies changed their contracts to be based on a set number of albums recorded by a musician and not a specific number of years.Grease
Newton-John's career soared after she starred in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease in 1978. She was offered the lead role of Sandy after meeting producer Allan Carr at a dinner party at Helen Reddy's home. Disillusioned by her Toomorrow experience and concerned that she was too old to play a high school senior (she was 28 during the filming of Grease), Newton-John insisted on a screen test with the film's co-star, John Travolta. The film accommodated Newton-John's Australian accent by recasting her character from the play's original American Sandy Dumbr owski to Sandy Olsson, an Australian who holidays in the US and then moves there with her family. Newton-John previewed some of the film's soundtrack during her second American network television special, Olivia, featuring guests ABBA and Andy Gibb.
Grease became the biggest box-office hit of 1978. The soundtrack album spent 12 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 and yielded three Top 5 singles for Newton-John: the platinum "You're the One That I Want" (No. 1 Pop, No. 23 AC) with John Travolta, the gold "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (No. 3 Pop, No. 20 Country, No. 7 AC) and the gold "Summer Nights" (No. 5 Pop, No. 21 AC) with John Travolta and the film's cast. "Summer Nights" was from the original play written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, but the former two songs were written and composed by her long-time music producer, John Farrar, specifically for the film.
Newton-John became the second woman (after Linda Ronstadt in 1977) to have two singles – "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Summer Nights" – in the Billboard top 5 simultaneously. Newton-John's performance earned her a People's Choice Award for Favorite Film Actress. She was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Musical and performed the Oscar-nominated "Hopelessly Devoted to You" at the 1979 Academy Awards.
The film's popularity has endured through the years. It was re-released for its 20th anniversary in 1998 and ranked as the second highest-grossing film behind Titanic in its opening weekend. It was most recently re-released in April 2018 in over 700 American theatres for two days only. The soundtrack is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time.
Newton-John explained: "I think the songs are timeless. They're fun and have great energy. The '50s-feel music has always been popular, and it's nostalgic for my generation, and then the young kids are rediscovering it every 10 years or so, it seems. People buying the album was a way for them to remember those feelings of watching the movie and feelings of that time period. I feel very grateful to be a part of this movie that's still loved so much."Lawsuit against UMG
In June 2006, Newton-John's company ON-J Productions Ltd filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Group (UMG) for $1 million in unpaid royalties from the Grease soundtrack. In 2007, it was announced that she and UMG had reached a "conditional settlement".New image
Newton-John's transformation in Grease from goody-goody "Sandy 1" to spandex-clad "Sandy 2" emboldened Newton-John to do the same with her music career. In November 1978, she released her next studio album, Totally Hot, which became her first solo top 10 (No. 7) album since Have You Never Been Mellow. Dressed on the cover all in leather, Newton-John capitalised on the new Sandy 2 look that was introduced at the end of Grease; moreover, Totally Hot's singles – "A Little More Love" (No. 3 Pop, No. 94 Country, No. 4 AC), "Deeper Than the Night" (No. 11 Pop, No. 87 Country, No. 4 AC), and the title track (No. 52 Pop) – all demonstrated a more aggressive and uptempo sound for Newton-John. Although the album de-emphasised the country sound, the LP still reached No. 4 on the Country Albums chart. Newton-John released the B-side, "Dancin' 'Round and 'Round", of the "Totally Hot" single to Country radio. The entry peaked at No. 29 (as well as No. 82 Pop and No. 25 AC), and became her last charted solo Country airplay single to date.
Newton-John began 1980 by releasing "I Can't Help It" (No. 12 Pop, No. 8 AC), a duet with Andy Gibb from his After Dark album, and by starring in her third television special, Hollywood Nights. Later that year, she appeared in her first film since Grease when she starred with Gene Kelly and Michael Beck in the musical fantasy Xanadu. Although the film was a critical failure, its soundtrack (No. 4 Pop) was certified double platinum and scored five top 20 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Newton-John charted with "Magic" (No. 1 Pop, No. 1 AC), "Suddenly" with Cliff Richard (No. 20 Pop, No. 4 AC) and the title song "Xanadu" with the Electric Light Orchestra (No. 8 Pop, No. 2 AC). [ELO also charted with "I'm Alive" (No. 16 Pop, No. 48 AC) and "All Over the World" (No. 13 Pop, No. 46 AC).]
"Magic" was Newton-John's biggest pop hit to that point (four weeks at No. 1) and still ranks as the biggest AC hit of her career (five weeks at No. 1). The film has since become a cult classic and the basis for a Broadway show that ran for more than 500 performances beginning in 2007 and was nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Musical. (A successful international tour of the show followed.)
In 1981, Newton-John released her most successful studio album, the double platinum Physical, which strongly reinforced her image change by showcasing risqué, rock-oriented material. Newton-John explains: "I just wasn't in the mood for tender ballads. I wanted peppy stuff because that's how I'm feeling." Of the titular cut, Newton-John says: "Roger Davies was my manager at the time; he played it for me and I knew it was a very catchy song." The title track, written by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick, spent ten weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. This matched the record at that time held by Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" for most weeks spent at No. 1 in the rock era. The single was certified platinum and it ultimately ranked as the biggest song of the decade. (In 2008, Billboard ranked the song No. 6 among all songs that charted in the 50-year history of the Hot 100.)
"Physical" earned Newton-John her only placement ever on the R&B Singles (No. 28) and Albums (No. 32) charts. The Physical album spawned two more singles, "Make a Move on Me" (No. 5 Pop, No. 6 AC) and "Landslide" (No. 52 Pop).
The provocative lyrics of the "Physical" title track prompted two Utah radio stations to ban the single from their playlists. (In 2010, Billboard magazine ranked this as the most popular single ever about sex.) To counter its overtly suggestive tone, Newton-John filmed an exercise-themed video that turned the song into an aerobics anthem and made headbands a fashion accessory outside the gym.
She pioneered the nascent music video industry by recording a video album for Physical featuring videos of all the album's tracks and three of her older hits. The video album earned her a fourth Grammy and was aired as an ABC prime-time special, Let's Get Physical, becoming a top 10 Nielsen hit. Newton-John asserts: "Like everyone, I've got different sides of my personality. I've my dominant self, my need-to-be-dominated self, the sane Olivia and the crazy Olivia. Playing these different characters gave me a chance to show strange parts people haven't seen much."
The success of Physical led to an international tour and the release of her second hits collection, the double platinum Olivia's Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (No. 16 Pop), which yielded two more top 40 singles: "Heart Attack" (No. 3 Pop) and "Tied Up" (No. 38 Pop). The tour was filmed for her Olivia in Concert television special, which premiered on HBO in January 1983. The special was subsequently released to video, earning Newton-John another Grammy nomination.
Newton-John re-teamed with Travolta in 1983 for the critically and commercially unsuccessful Two of a Kind, redeemed by its platinum soundtrack (No. 26 Pop) featuring "Twist of Fate" (No. 5 Pop), "Livin' in Desperate Times" (No. 31 Pop), and a new duet with Travolta, "Take a Chance" (No. 3 AC). Newton-John released another video package, the Grammy-nominated Twist of Fate, featuring videos of her four songs on the Two of a Kind soundtrack and the two new singles from Olivia's Greatest Hits Vol. 2.
That same year Newton-John and Pat Farrar (formerly Pat Carroll) founded Koala Blue. The store, originally for Australian imports, evolved into a chain of women's clothing boutiques. The chain was initially successful, but it eventually declared bankruptcy and closed in 1992. Newton-John and Farrar would later license the brand name for a line of Australian produced wines, confections, and bed/bath products.
Newton-John, a Carlton Football Club fan, performed the Australian national anthem at the 1986 VFL Grand Final between Carlton and Hawthorn.
Newton-John's music career cooled again with the release of her next studio album, the gold Soul Kiss (No. 29 Pop), in 1985. The album's only charted single was the title track (No. 20 Pop, No. 20 AC). Due to her pregnancy, Newton-John limited her publicity for the album. The video album for Soul Kiss featured only five of the album's ten tracks (concept videos for the album's singles "Soul Kiss" and "Toughen Up" as well as performance videos of the tracks "Culture Shock", "Emotional Tangle" and "The Right Moment").
After a nearly three-year hiatus following the birth of her daughter Chloe in January 1986, Newton-John resumed her recording career with the 1988 album, The Rumour. The album was promoted by an HBO special, Olivia Down Under, and its first single, the title track, was written and produced by Elton John. Both the single (No. 62 Pop, No. 33 AC) and the album (No. 67 Pop) faltered commercially as the nearly 40-year-old Newton-John seemed "old" when compared with the teen queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany ruling the Pop charts at that time. (This album was praised by critics as more mature with Newton-John addressing topics such as AIDS, the environment and single-parent households.)
The second single, "Can't We Talk It Over in Bed", did not chart, but was released in 1989 by Grayson Hugh, the song's arranger, and became a top 20 Pop hit as "Talk It Over".Motherhood, cancer and advocacy
In September 1989, Newton-John released her self-described "self-indulgent" album, Warm and Tender, which reunited her with producer John Farrar, absent from her previous LP, and also marked a return to a more wholesome image of herself. Inspired by her daughter, who appeared on the cover, the album featured lullabies and love songs for parents and their children. This album, the last one produced by Farrar, also failed to revive her recording career, as the disc only reached No. 124 Pop.
Newton-John was primed for another comeback in 1992 when she compiled her third hits collection, Back to Basics: The Essential Collection 1971–1992, and planned her first tour since her Physical trek ten years earlier. Shortly after the album's release Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer, forcing her to cancel all publicity for the album, including the tour. (Newton-John received her diagnosis the same weekend her father died.) Newton-John recovered and later became an advocate for breast cancer research and other health issues. She was a product spokesperson for the Liv-Kit, a breast self-examination product. She was also partial owner of the Gaia Retreat and Spa in Byron Bay, New South Wales.
Newton-John's advocacy for health issues was presaged by her prior involvement with many humanitarian causes. Newton-John cancelled a 1978 concert tour of Japan to protest the slaughter of dolphins caught in tuna fishing nets. She subsequently rescheduled the tour when the Japanese government assured her that the practice was being curbed. Her concern for these "beautifully evolved creatures" (as she calls them in the Warm and Tender liner notes) is also expressed in the 1981 self-penned piece, "The Promise (the Dolphin Song)", described as "one of the most tender, heartfelt vocals of the singer's career." Newton-John claims "The Promise" (from Physical) was inspired by (and even channeled by) dolphins she met at Sea Life Park in Hawaii and attests: "It was strange. The morning after I was in the pools, I woke up and the words and melody were in my head. I think it was a gift from them."
She was a performer on the 1979 Music for UNICEF Concert for the UN's International Year of the Child televised worldwide. During the concert, artists performed songs for which they donated their royalties, some in perpetuity, to benefit the cause. She was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Environment Programme.
In 1991, she became the National Spokesperson for the Colette Chuda Environmental Fund/CHEC (Children's Health Environmental Coalition) following the death from Wilms' tumor of four-year-old Colette Chuda, daughter of Newton-John's friend Nancy Chuda. (On the cover of the Warm and Tender album, the singer is shown with two young girls: one is Newton-John's daughter Chloe and the other, whom Newton-John is kissing, is Colette Chuda.)
Newton-John's cancer diagnosis also affected the type of music she recorded. In 1994, she released Gaia: One Woman's Journey, which chronicled her ordeal. Co-produced by Newton-John for ONJ Productions, Gaia was originally issued by Festival in Australia but also distributed by various independent labels in Japan and Europe. In 2002, there was an American distribution by Hip-O Records, and a subsequent re-release in 2012 by Green Hill featured an alternate cover photo. Gaia was the first album on which Newton-John wrote all the music and lyrics herself, and this endeavor encouraged her to become more active as a songwriter thereafter. The single "No Matter What You Do" entered the Australian top 40, and the second single, the environmental-themed "Don't Cut Me Down", was also used in the film It's My Party. The Latin-fueled "Not Gonna Give into It" eventually became heavily showcased in concert performance; "The Way of Love" was featured in the telefilm A Christmas Romance, and "Trust Yourself" was incorporated into both the TV-movie The Wilde Girls and the theatrical flick Sordid Lives.
Newton-John was listed as president of the Isle of Man Basking Shark Society between 1998 and 2005.
In 2005, she released Stronger Than Before, sold exclusively in the US by Hallmark. This was her second exclusive album for Hallmark Cards after her successful first Christmas album Tis the Season with Vince Gill five years earlier. Proceeds from the album's sales benefited breast cancer research. The album featured the song "Phenomenal Woman" based on the poem by Maya Angelou that featured guest vocals from Diahann Carroll, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Delta Goodrem, Amy Holland, Patti LaBelle and Mindy Smith – all survivors of or affected by cancer.
The following year, Newton-John released a healing CD, Grace and Gratitude. The album was sold exclusively by Walgreens, also to benefit various charities including Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization. The CD was the "heart" of their Body – Heart – Spirit Wellness Collection, which also featured a re-branded Liv-Kit and breast-health dietary supplements. She re-recorded some tracks from Grace and Gratitude in 2010 and re-released the album as Grace and Gratitude Renewed on the Green Hill music label. The Renewed CD includes a new track, "Help Me to Heal", not featured on the original album. The Renewed CD yielded Newton-John's first appearances on the Billboard Christian Albums (No. 36), Christian & Gospel Albums (No. 54) and New Age Albums (No. 2) charts.
In 2008, she raised funds to help build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia. She led a three-week, 228 km walk along the Great Wall of China during April, joined by various celebrities and cancer survivors throughout her trek. The walk symbolised the steps cancer patients must take on their road to recovery.
She released a companion CD, A Celebration in Song, the following month in Australia and later worldwide, featuring new and previously recorded duets by "Olivia Newton-John & Friends", including Jann Arden, Jimmy Barnes, John Farrar, Barry Gibb, Delta Goodrem, Sun Ho, Richard Marx, Cliff Richard, Melinda Schneider, Amy Sky, and Keith Urban. In 2016, Newton-John re-teamed with Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman to form a trio for the album Liv On.
Newton-John was featured in UniGlobe Entertainment's breast cancer docu-drama, 1 a Minute, released in October 2010. The documentary was made by actress Namrata Singh Gujral and featured other celebrities who had survived breast cancer or who were affected by the disease. During the same month, Bluewater Productions released a comic book featuring Newton-John to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.Later career
Newton-John continued to record and perform pop-oriented music as well. In 1998, she returned to Nashville to record Back with a Heart (No. 59 Pop). The album returned her to the top 10 (No. 9) on the Country Albums chart. Its first single was a re-recording of "I Honestly Love You" produced by David Foster and featuring Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds on background vocals that charted on the Pop (No. 67) and AC (No. 18) charts. Country radio dismissed the song, though it did peak at No. 16 on the Country Sales chart. The album track, "Love Is a Gift", won Newton-John a 1999 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Song after being featured on the daytime serial, As the World Turns.
During October–December 1998, Newton-John, John Farnham and Anthony Warlow performed in The Main Event Tour. The album Highlights from The Main Event peaked at No. 1 in December, was certified 4× platinum, won an ARIA Award for Highest Selling Australian CD at the 1999 Awards and was also nominated for Best Adult Contemporary Album.
For the 2000 Summer Olympics, Newton-John and Farnham re-teamed to perform "Dare to Dream" during the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony. Broadcast of the ceremony was viewed by an estimated 3.5 billion people around the world.]
In December 1998, following a hiatus of about 16 years, Newton-John also resumed touring by herself and in 2000 released a solo CD, One Woman's Live Journey, her first live album since 1981's Love Performance, which was only available in Japan on vinyl pressings.
Newton-John's subsequent secular albums were released primarily in Australia. In 2002, Newton-John released , a duets album featuring mostly Australian artists (Tina Arena, Darren Hayes, Jimmy Little, Johnny O'Keefe, Billy Thorpe, Keith Urban) as well as a "duet" with the deceased Peter Allen. In addition, (2) offered a hidden 12th track, a samba version of "Physical", which Newton-John later performed occasionally in concert instead of the more rock-style original. For (2)'s 2004 Japanese release, the acoustic version of "Physical" was switched to "Let It Be Me", a duet with Cliff Richard, with whom she had previously been coupled on "Suddenly" and Songs from Heathcliff.
In 2002, Newton-John was also inducted into Australia's ARIA Hall of Fame.
Produced by Phil Ramone and recorded at the Indigo Recording Studios in Malibu for ONJ Productions, Indigo: Women of Song was released in October 2004 in Australia. The tribute album featured Newton-John covering songs by artists such as Joan Baez, the Carpenters, Doris Day, Nina Simone, Minnie Riperton and others. Newton-John dedicated the album to her mother, who had died the previous year. Indigo was subsequently released in the UK in April 2005 and in Japan in March 2006. A re-branded and re-sequenced version called Portraits: A Tribute to Great Women of Song was eventually issued in the US in 2011.
Newton-John also released several Christmas albums. In 2000, she teamed with Vince Gill and the London Symphony Orchestra for 'Tis the Season sold exclusively through Hallmark. The following year, she released The Christmas Collection, which compiled seasonal music previously recorded for her Hallmark Christmas album, her appearance on Kenny Loggins' 1999 TNN Christmas special and her contributions to the Mother and Child and Spirit of Christmas multi-artist collections. (Green Hill Records re-released this album with different artwork in 2010.) In 2007, she re-teamed with her Grace and Gratitude producer, Amy Sky, for Christmas Wish (No. 187 Pop) which was sold exclusively by Target in its first year of release.
Newton-John acted occasionally since Two of a Kind. She appeared in a supporting role in the 1996 AIDS drama, It's My Party. In 2000, she appeared in a dramatically different role as Bitsy Mae Harling, a lesbian ex-con country singer, in Del Shores' Sordid Lives. Newton-John reprised her role for Sordid Lives: The Series which aired one season on the LOGO television network. The series featured five original songs written and composed by Newton-John specifically for the show. In 2010, Newton-John starred in the film Score: A Hockey Musical, released in Canada. Newton-John portrayed Hope Gordon, the mother of a home-schooled hockey prodigy. The film opened the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.
Newton-John's television work included starring in two Christmas films, A Mom for Christmas (1990) and A Christmas Romance (1994) – both top 10 Nielsen hits. Her daughter, Chloe, starred as one of her children in both A Christmas Romance and in the 2001 Showtime film The Wilde Girls. Newton-John guest-starred as herself in the sitcoms Ned and Stacey, Murphy Brown, and Bette, and made two appearances as herself on Glee.
For her first Glee appearance, Newton-John re-created her "Physical" video with series regular Jane Lynch. The performance was released as a digital single, returning Newton-John to the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 89) for the first time since her 1998 re-release of "I Honestly Love You". In Australia, Newton-John hosted the animal and nature series Wild Life and guest starred as Joanna on two episodes of the Australian series The Man From Snowy River.
Newton-John released another concert DVD, Olivia Newton-John and the Sydney Symphony: Live at the Sydney Opera House and a companion CD, her third live album titled Olivia's Live Hits. An edited version of the DVD premiered on PBS station, WLIW (Garden City, New York), in October 2007 and subsequently aired nationally during the network's fund-raising pledge drives.
In 2008, Newton-John took part in the BBC Wales program Coming Home about her Welsh family history. Also, in 2008, Newton-John joined Anne Murray on Murray's last album, titled "Duets: Friends and Legends". Newton-John sang Gordon Lightfoot's hit, Cotton Jenny, with Murray.
In January 2011, Newton-John began filming the comedy A Few Best Men in Australia with director Stephan Elliott, in the role of mother of the bride. The groom is played by Xavier Samuel.2012–2022
Newton-John was actively touring and doing concerts from 2012 to 2017 and also performed a handful of shows in 2018.
In 2012, on an Australian tour of Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, as well as on a tour of the United States, she sang songs that she had never previously performed in concert. Her dates for A Summer Night with Olivia Newton-John even included stops in Asia and Canada and culminated in a rare concert appearance in London in 2013. Her March 2013 UK trek also encompassed Bournemouth, Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff, Wales.
In November 2012, Newton-John teamed with John Travolta to make the charity album This Christmas, in support of The Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre and the Jett Travolta Foundation. Artists featured on the album include: Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, Chick Corea, Kenny G, Tony Bennett, Cliff Richard and the Count Basie Orchestra.
A 2013 residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas was postponed due to the May 2013 death of her elder sister, Rona (aged 72), from a brain tumour. Newton-John resumed performing, doing 45 shows beginning in April 2014. Along with the Vegas shows, Newton-John released a new EP in April 2014 entitled Hotel Sessions, which consisted of seven tracks of unreleased demos that were recorded between 2002 and 2011 with her nephew Brett Goldsmith. The CD contains a cover of "Broken Wings" as well as the popular-with-fans original "Best of My Love", which had leaked on the internet many years prior.
Her Vegas stay was eventually extended beyond August 2014, and her Summer Nights residency did not complete until December 2016 after 175 shows. Her successful three-year run even prompted a fourth live album, Summer Nights: Live in Las Vegas (2015). In 2015, Newton-John also reunited with John Farnham for a joint venture called Two Strong Hearts Live.
In 2015, Newton-John was a guest judge on an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race. That same year, she scored her first number-one single on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart with "You Have to Believe" with daughter Chloe and producer Dave Audé. The song was a re-imagining of her 1980 single "Magic", which she notes was to celebrate both the 35th anniversary of Xanadu and as a dedication to her daughter, stating "I met Chloe's dad on the set of Xanadu, so, without that film, Chloe wouldn't be here. She was the real 'magic' that came out of that film!" The song became the first mother-daughter single to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Play chart.
In 2015, Newton-John was inducted into the Music Victoria Hall of Fame.
On 7 May 2019, Newton-John's elder brother Hugh, a doctor, died at age 80; his death left Newton-John as the sole surviving sibling.
In December 2019, Newton-John and Travolta also re-teamed for three live "Meet 'n' Grease" sing-along events in the Florida cities of Tampa, West Palm Beach and Jacksonville.
In January 2021, Newton-John released a new single, "Window in the Wall", a duet about unity which she recorded with her daughter Chloe Lattanzi. The music video for the song peaked at No. 1 on the iTunes pop music video chart the week of its release.
In the media
In 2019, it was announced that Newton-John was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
On 2 November 2019, Julien's Auctions auctioned hundreds of memorabilia items from the singer's career. The sale raised $2.4 million. Newton-John's Grease outfit garnered $405,700; her pants and jacket were purchased separately by two different billionaires. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, bought Newton-John's black skintight pants from Grease for $162,000. The anonymous buyer who acquired her famous Grease leather jacket for $243,200 (£185,000) returned the item to her and said: "It should not sit in a billionaire's closet for country-club bragging rights [...] The odds of beating a recurring cancer using the newest emerging therapies is a thousandfold greater than someone appearing out of the blue, buying your most famous and cherished icon, and returning it to you." All proceeds were donated to her cancer and wellness research centre in Australia.
In 1968, Newton-John was engaged to but never married Bruce Welch, one of her early producers and co-writer of her hit "Please Mr. Please". In 1972, Newton-John ended her relationship with Welch, who subsequently attempted suicide.
In 1973, while vacationing on the French Riviera, Newton-John met British businessman Lee Kramer, who became both her new boyfriend and manager. Newton-John lived with Kramer on and off and they stayed a couple until 1979; however, Newton-John called their turbulent pairing "one long breakup". Kramer subsequently returned to England and married. He also managed vocalist Krishna Das. Kramer died in 2017.
Newton-John married her long-time, live-in boyfriend, actor Matt Lattanzi, in December 1984. The couple had met four years earlier while filming Xanadu. They divorced amicably in 1995. According to People magazine, people close to the couple said that the disparity between her spiritual interests and his more earthly ones was a key factor in the dissolution. The couple remained friends. Their daughter, Chloe Rose, was born in January 1986.
Newton-John met gaffer/cameraman Patrick McDermott a year after her 1995 divorce from Matt Lattanzi. The couple dated on and off for nine years. McDermott disappeared following a 2005 fishing trip off the Californian coast. Newton-John, who was in Australia at her Gaia Retreat & Spa at the time of his disappearance, was never a suspect in McDermott's disappearance. A US Coast Guard investigation, based on then-available evidence and released in 2008, "suggest[ed] McDermott was lost at sea", with a friend telling investigators McDermott had appeared sad though not despondent after their breakup. In April 2010, a private investigator, hired by an American television program, claimed that McDermott was alive in Mexico and had faked his death for a life insurance payout – but did not provide proof beyond their own statement that they were confident.
Newton-John married John Easterling, founder and president of the Amazon Herb Company, in an Incan spiritual ceremony in Peru on 21 June 2008, followed by a legal ceremony nine days later on Jupiter Island, Florida.Residences
After relocating to America in 1975, Newton-John set up residence in Malibu, California, where for 40 years she owned several properties, including a horse ranch and beach houses.
In June 2009, Newton-John and second husband John Easterling purchased a new $4.1 million home in Jupiter Inlet, Florida. In 2013, a contractor named Christopher Pariseleti committed suicide on the estate, which at the time was up for sale. Following the death on the premises, the property lingered on and off the market for two years but was eventually sold in 2015 to a Swedish advertising executive for $5.1 million.
In 2015, the couple purchased a $5.3 million 4,750 square foot 12-acre horse ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley outside Santa Barbara. It was offered for sale in 2019.
In 2019, Newton-John sold her 187-acre Australian farm, which she had owned for nearly 40 years and is located near Byron Bay in New South Wales. The Dalwood estate sold for $4.6 million; Newton-John had paid $622,000 for the property in 1980, which had additional land adjoined in both 1983 and in 2002.
Illness and death
In May 2017, it was announced that Newton-John's breast cancer had returned and metastasised to her lower back. Her back pains had initially been misdiagnosed as sciatica.
Newton-John subsequently revealed this was actually her third bout with breast cancer, as she had privately battled a recurrence of the disease in 2013 in addition to her initial 1992 fight. With the 2017 recurrence, the cancer had spread to her bones and progressed to stage IV.
Newton-John experienced a great deal of pain from the metastatic bone lesions and had openly spoken of using cannabis oil to ease her pain. She was an advocate for the use of medical cannabis; her daughter Chloe owns a cannabis farm in Oregon.
On 8 August 2022, Newton-John died of cancer at her home in California, aged 73.
Awards and honoursMain article: List of awards and honours received by Olivia Newton-John
- If Not for You (1971)
- Olivia (1972)
- Let Me Be There (1973)
- Long Live Love (1974)
- Have You Never Been Mellow (1975)
- Clearly Love (1975)
- Come on Over (1976)
- Don't Stop Believin' (1976)
- Making a Good Thing Better (1977)
- Totally Hot (1978)
- Physical (1981)
- Soul Kiss (1985)
- The Rumour (1988)
- Warm and Tender (1989)
- Gaia: One Woman's Journey (1994)
- Back with a Heart (1998)
- 'Tis the Season (2000) (with Vince Gill)
- (2) (2002)
- Indigo: Women of Song (2004)
- Stronger Than Before (2005)
- Grace and Gratitude (2006)
- Christmas Wish (2007)
- A Celebration in Song (2008)
- This Christmas (2012) (with John Travolta)
- Liv On (2016)
- Friends for Christmas (2016) (with John Farnham)
|Relation name||Relation type||Description|
|5||Jeff Conaway||Brother in-law|
|8||Robin Gibb||Coworker, Familiar|
|9||Maurice Gibb||Coworker, Familiar|