Fri, 07 Oct 2022

SANTA BARBARA, California - Australian singing sensation and actress Olivia Newtown-John has died at the age of 73.

"Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends," a statement posted on her Instagram page on Monday said.

The following has been extracted from Wikipedia:

Dame Olivia Newton-John AC DBE (26 September 1948 8 August 2022) was a British-born Australian singer, songwriter, actress, entrepreneur, 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,[1] 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.[2]

In 1978, she 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 plus her cover of "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 Electric Light Orchestra). Plus "Heart Attack" (1982) and "Twist of Fate" (from the 1983 film Two of a Kind).

Newton-John was an activist for environmental and animal rights causes.

Early life

Newton-John was born on 26 September 1948[3] in Cambridge, United Kingdom, to Welshman Brinley "Bryn" Newton-John (19141992) and Irene Helene (ne Born; 19142003).[3] Her Jewish maternal grandfather, the Nobel Prizewinning physicist Max Born,[4][5][6][7] 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.[4] 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[8] on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park who took Rudolf Hess into custody during World War II.[9][10] 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 (19392019), a medical doctor, and her sister Rona (19412013), 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.[11]

She attended Christ Church Grammar School in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra[12] and then the University High School near Ormond College.[13]

Career

Career beginnings

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.[14] 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".[15]

She also appeared on The Go!! Show where she met future duet partner, singer Pat Carroll, and 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.[1]

Newton-John recorded her first single, "Till You Say You'll Be Mine", in Britain for Decca Records in 1966.[1] 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.[14]

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. Dressed primly in frilly, high-collared dresses, they were unaware that this was a strip club until they began to perform onstage.)[16] After Carroll's visa expired, forcing her to return to Australia, Newton-John remained in Britain to pursue solo work until 1975.[16]

Newton-John was recruited for the group Toomorrow,[17] 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.[18]

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").[19] 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[20] 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),[21] and AC (No. 3) charts and earned her a Grammy for Best Country Female[20] and an Academy of Country Music award for Most Promising Female Vocalist.[19]

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.)[22] Newton-John finished fourth at the contest held in Brighton behind ABBA's winning Swedish entry, "Waterloo". 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.[23]

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 in fact its first single and reached No. 5 Pop, No. 2 Country[1] (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,[20] 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[24] and Best Pop Vocal Performance Female. The success of both singles helped the album reach No. 1 on both the Pop (one week)[25] 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 country success sparked a debate among purists, who took issue with a foreigner singing country-flavoured pop music being equated with native Nashville artists.[17] 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.[20]

This protest, in part, led to the formation of the short-lived Association of Country Entertainers (ACE).[26] 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.[20]

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) [1]. The album generated two singles the John Farrar-penned title track (No. 1 Pop, No. 3 Country,[21] No. 1 AC)[27] and "Please Mr. Please" (No. 3 Pop, No. 5 Country, No. 1 AC).[27] 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:

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,[21] 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).[21] She headlined her first US television special, A Special Olivia Newton-John, in November 1976.[20]

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[28] 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.[29]

Grease

Newton-John appearing with John Travolta in 1982

Newton-John's career soared after she starred in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease in 1978. Grease became the biggest box-office hit of 1978.[35] 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,[36] but the former two songs were written and composed by her long-time music producer, John Farrar, specifically for the film.[37]

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