Olivia Newton-John: In the Spotlight

Paramount Pictures

Born:

September 26, 1948, Cambridge, England

Styles:

Pop, Countrypolitan, Soft-rock, Adult contemporary, Country

Instruments:

Vocals

Claims to fame:

  • Australia's biggest pop music star
  • Brought "Countrypolitan" to AM radio in the early '70s
  • Switched over to pop and became a multimedia superstar
  • Generations of teenage girls have identified with her portrayal of Sandy in the smash musical "Grease"
  • Had one of the '80s biggest hits with the perennial workout anthem "Physical"
  • Became a noted advocate for environmental issues and also for breast cancer after her bout with the disease

Early years:

Though she's considered an Australian, Olivia was actually born in England of a Welsh MI5 war hero and the daughter of a famous German physicist who'd escaped the Nazi regime. After her family moved "down under" when she was 6, Olivia began singing, and by the time she was a teenager was a fixture on Melbourne radio and television. Using a trip won on a talent contest, she ventured back to England at age 18, where she began her recording career, but she didn't make a name for herself until four years later, when rock impresario Don Kirshner hired her for his new post-Monkees project, a fabricated pop group called Toomorrow.

Success:

One of the only failures in Kirshner's career, Toomorrow -- which came complete with a sci-fi theatrical musical that introduced the band -- was a resounding flop.

It did lead to a recording contract with Australia's Festival label, however, and "Livvy" had a worldwide hit right out of the box with her cover of Bob Dylan's "If Not for You," done in a style much like George Harrison had just done on his album All Things Must Pass. Though the follow-up album flopped, she bounced back in 1973 with her first original hit, "Let Me Be There." It defined the "countrypolitan" sound which was her early trademark.

Later years:

Newton-John enjoyed a great deal of popularity as a wholesome, fresh-faced pop country ingenue in the first half of the decade, but when musical tastes changed, she switched to a sexier pop style and became a superstar, not only reinventing herself with the 1978 album Totally Hot but landing starring roles in the smash retro film musical Grease and the notorious disco flop Xanadu. She sold well into the early '80s -- her controversially aggressive "Physical" was #1 for ten weeks -- but by the mid-'80s she'd fallen off the pop charts. She continued acting and recording for a devoted fan base, despite a successful bout with breast cancer in the early '90s; she still tours to this day.

Olivia Newton-John facts and trivia:

  • Is officially a "National Living Treasure" of her home country and has received the title Officer in the Order of Australia
  • Is celebrated for her environmental and breast cancer humanitarian work by the Red Cross and Goodwill, among others
  • Accidentally booked in a Soho strip club during the late Sixties
  • "Physical" is the sixth-best selling single of all time
  • "Physical" became a popular workout song after Olivia made a gym-themed video for it to distract from the risque lyrics, which had actually gotten her banned in some markets
  • Was the first entertainer to call attention to the endangerment of dolphins by Japanese fisheries
  • Her second husband, Patrick McDermott, mysteriously disappeared at sea in 2005

Olivia Newton-John awards and honors:

  • Order of the British Empire (OBE) (1979)
  • GRAMMY Awards (1973, 1974, 1982)
  • Academy of Country Music Award (1973)
  • Country Music Association Award (1974)
  • Daytime Emmy (1999)
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame (6925 Hollywood Blvd.)

Olivia Newton-John hit singles and albums:

#1 hits
Pop:

  • "I Honestly Love You" (1974)
  • "Have You Never Been Mellow" (1975)
  • "You're the One That I Want" with John Travolta (1978)
  • "Magic" (1980)
  • "Physical" (1981)

Adult Contemporary:

  • "If Not for You" (1971)
  • "I Honestly Love You" (1974)
  • "Something Better to Do" (1975)
  • "Please Mr. Please" (1975)
  • "Have You Never Been Mellow" (1975)
  • "Let It Shine" (1976)
  • "He Ain't Heavy... He's My Brother" (1976)
  • "Don't Stop Believin'" (1976)
  • "Come on Over" (1976)
  • "Sam" (1977)
  • "Magic" (1980)
Top 10 hits
Pop:
  • "Let Me Be There" (1973)
  • "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" (1974)
  • "Please Mr. Please" (1975)
  • "Summer Nights" with John Travolta (1978)
  • "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (1978)
  • "A Little More Love" (1979)
  • "Xanadu" with Electric Light Orchestra (1980)
  • "Make a Move on Me" (1982)
  • "Heart Attack" (1982)
  • "Twist of Fate" (1983)

Adult Contemporary:

  • "Let Me Be There" (1973)
  • "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" (1974)
  • "Every Face Tells A Story" (1976)
  • "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (1978)
  • "A Little More Love" (1979)
  • "Deeper Than The Night" (1979)
  • "Xanadu" with Electric Light Orchestra (1980)
  • "Suddenly" with Cliff Richard (1980)
  • "I Can't Help It" (1980)
  • "Make a Move on Me" (1982)

Country:

  • "Let Me Be There" (1973)
  • "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" (1974)
  • "I Honestly Love You" (1974)
  • "Please Mr. Please" (1975)
  • "Have You Never Been Mellow" (1975)
  • "Let It Shine" (1976)
  • "Come on Over" (1976)

#1 albums
Pop:

  • If You Love Me, Let Me Know (1974)
  • Have You Never Been Mellow (1975)

Country:

  • Let Me Be There (1974)
  • If You Love Me, Let Me Know (1974)
  • Have You Never Been Mellow (1975)

Top 10 albums
Pop:

  • Totally Hot (1979)
  • Xanadu with Electric Light Orchestra (1980)
  • Physical (1981)

Country:

  • Clearly Love (1975)
  • Don't Stop Believin' (1976)
  • Come on Over (1976)
  • Olivia Newton-John's Greatest Hits (1978)
  • Totally Hot (1979)
  • Back With a Heart (1998)

Other notable recordings: "If Not for You," "Banks of the Ohio," "What Is Life," "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Long Live Love," "Making a Good Thing Better," "Totally Hot," "Dancin' 'Round and 'Round," "Rest Your Love on Me" with Andy Gibb, "Landslide," "Tied Up," "Soul Kiss," "The Rumour," "Reach Out for Me," "I Need Love," "Deeper Than a River," "Instrument of Peace"

Movie and TV appearances (movies in italics): "It's Cliff Richard" (1970, 1974), "Top of the Pops" (1971, 1973, 1977, 1978), "The Dean Martin Comedy Hour" (1972), "The Eurovision Song Contest" (1974), "Celebrity Sweepstakes" (1974), "Country Music Association Awards" (1974, 1997), "The Midnight Special" (1974, 1975, 1980), "The Mike Douglas Show" (1974), "People's Choice Awards" (1975, 1977, 1979, 1991), "Rocky Mountain Christmas" (1975), "A Special Olivia Newton-John" (1976), "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1976, 1990), "Carpenters Very First Television Special" (1976), "Neil Diamond: Love at the Greek" (1977), "The Bob Hope All Star Christmas Comedy Special" (1977), Grease (1978), "Golden Globe Awards" (1978, 1979), "Grammy Awards" (1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1989, 1990), "Academy Awards" (1978, 1979, 1980, 1983), "Olivia" (1978), "Dinah!" (1978), "Parkinson" (1978, 2005), "Donny and Marie" (1978), "Rock Concert" (1979), Xanadu (1980), "The Merv Griffin Show" (1981), "Musikladen" (1981, 1982), "The American Music Awards" (1982, 1983, 1990, 1991, 2000), "Saturday Night Live" (1982), Two of a Kind (1983), She's Having a Baby (1988), "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" (1989, 1990), "The Geraldo Rivera Show" (1990) Good Morning America (1978, 2012), "Night of 100 Stars III" (1990), "Timeless Tales from Hallmark" (1990), "A Mom for Christmas" (1990), Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991), "Vicki!" (1993), "A Christmas Romance" (1994), "Royal Variety Performance" (1995, 2004), "Snowy River: The McGregor Saga" (1995), "Ned and Stacey" (1995), It's My Party (1996), "Tracey Takes On..." (1997), "Late Show with David Letterman" (1997), "Murphy Brown" (1997), "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (1998), "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (1998), "Behind the Music" (1998, 2001), "The Christmas Angel: A Story on Ice" (1998), "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" (1998, 2001), "The Wilde Girls" (2001), "Biography" (2003), "American Idol" (2003, 2007, 2008, 2009), "A Current Affair" (2004), "The Jane Pauley Show" (2004), "Dr. Phil" (2004), "Today" (2005), "The View" (2005), "The E!

True Hollywood Story" (2006), "Dancing with the Stars" (2006, 2011), "Entertainment Tonight" (2007, 2008, 2010), "Rachael Ray" (2008), "Sordid Lives: The Series" (2008), "The Graham Norton Show" (2009), "Loose Women" (2009, 2012), "Glee" (2010), "Tavis Smiley" (2010), "The Wendy Williams Show" (2010), Score: A Hockey Musical (2010), A Few Best Men (2011), "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (2011), "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (2012)

Covered by: Elvis Presley, Kylie Minogue, Shirley Bassey, Ramsey Lewis, Glee, RuPaul, Revolting Cocks, Goldfrapp, Stimulator, Sanna Nielsen, The Beautiful South, The Dooleys, Victor Willis, Queen of Japan, Kent James, Cat5, The Black Ghosts, Doomington, Girls Aloud, Sonia, Pet, Spank Happy, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, The Glimmers, Lightspeed Champion, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, The Olivia Project, Alvin and the Chipmunks