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Olivia Newton-John Biography

Olivia Newton-John Tickets

Olivia Newton-John In-depth Biography

Olivia Newton-John} skillfully made the transition from popular country-pop} singer to popular mainstream soft rock} singer, becoming one of the most successful vocalists of the '70s in the process. The transition itself wasn't much of a stretch -- her early-'70s hits "I Honestly Love You"} and "Have You Never Been Mellow"} were country} only in the loosest sense -- yet the extent of her success in both fields was remarkable. As a country} singer, her first five charting singles all went Top Ten in the U.S.; as a pop} singer, she had no less than 15 Top Ten hits, including five number one singles, highlighted by "Physical,"} which spent ten weeks at number one in 1981-1982. Newton-John}'s sweet voice suited both country-pop} and soft rock} perfectly, which is what kept her at the top of the charts until the mid-'80s. After 1984, she was no longer able to reach the Top 40, partially because of shifting musical tastes and partially because she was unable to successfully record sexy dance-pop}, no matter how hard she tried. Nevertheless, her '70s and '80s hits remained soft rock} and adult contemporary} staples into the '90s, when she was no longer recording frequently

Although she was born in Cambridge, England, Newton-John} was raised in Melbourne, Australia, where her father was the headmaster of Ormond College (her grandfather {%Max Born} won the Nobel Prize for physics). She tentatively entered show business at the age of 12, when she won a local {%Haley Mills}-lookalike contest. A few years later, she formed an all-female vocal group called the Sol Four with three school friends. Once the Sol Four disbanded, Newton-John} entered a television talent contest, winning the grand prize of a trip to London, England. Once in London, she formed a duo with Pat Carroll}, another Australian-based vocalist, and tried to work her way into the music industry. Though her partnership with Carrol} was short-lived -- Pat} was sent back to Australia once her visa expired -- Olivia} was making inroads in the business. Following Carrol}'s departure, Newton-John} recorded and released her first single, a version of Jackie DeShannon}'s "Till You Say You'll Be Mine."} Shortly afterward, she became a member of Toomorrow}, a bubblegum} group assembled by Don Kirshner} in hopes of creating a British version of the Monkees}.

Toomorrow} appeared in a science fiction} movie of the same name and had one minor British hit single, "I Could Never Live Without Your Love,"} in early 1970 before the group quietly disbanded. Following the failure of Toomorrow}, Newton-John} became part of Cliff Richard}'s touring show, appearing both as an opening act at his concerts and on his British television series, It's Cliff!}. The exposure as a singer and comedienne on the show helped Olivia}'s career immeasurably, and her first single for Uni Records}, a version of Bob Dylan}'s "If Not for You,"} became a Top Ten hit in the U.K. in the spring of 1971; in America, it was surprisingly successful, spending three weeks at the top of the adult contemporary} charts and peaking at number 25 on the pop} charts. For the next two years, Newton-John}'s success was primarily contained in Britain, where she had a string of lesser hits with covers of George Harrison}'s "What Is Life"} and John Denver}'s "Take Me Home Country Roads."} In America, her career was stalled -- her follow-up single, "Banks of the Ohio,"} barely scraped the lower reaches of the Top 100. On the other hand, she didn't release a full-length album in the U.S. until 1973, when Let Me Be There} appeared. The title track from the record became a huge hit, going gold in early 1974 and peaking in the Top Ten country} and pop} charts. "Let Me Be There"} was so successful it won the Grammy award for Best Country} Vocal Performance, Female, much to the consternation of many members of Nashville's music industry.

"Let Me Be There"} was followed by four other Top Ten hits -- "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)"} (number two country}, number five pop}, 1974), "I Honestly Love You"} (number six country}, number one pop}, 1974), "Have You Never Been Mellow"} (number three country}, number one pop}, 1975), and "Please Mr. Please"} (number five country}, number three pop}, 1975). Newton-John} moved to Los Angeles late in 1974, and early the following year, she won the Female Vocalist of the Year award from the Country Music Association. As a protest, several members of the CMA quit the organization. Ironically, Newton-John} was already planning to move away from country}. During 1976 and 1977, she had a number of minor hits with soft rock} songs. Though none of these were big pop} successes, they began to establish her as a pop} singer, not a country-pop} singer.

Newton-John}'s transformation into a mildly sexy pop} singer was complete in 1978, when she starred in the movie version of the popular Broadway musical} Grease}. Also starring John Travolta}, Grease} was an international hit and spawned three huge hit singles -- "Hopelessly Devoted to You,"} "Summer Nights,"} and "You're the One That I Want"}; the latter two were duets between Newton-John} and Travolta}. "You're The One That I Want,"} in particular, was a massive success, reaching number one in both America and Britain; in the U.K., it spent a staggering nine weeks at number one. During 1979, Newton-John} released the Totally Hot} album, which boasted a mixture of soft rock} and light disco}. The record was another hit, with the first single, "A Little More Love,"} peaking at number three on the U.S. pop} charts and going gold. Early in 1980, Newton-John} starred in the roller-disco} fantasy} film Xanadu}. While the movie was an unqualified bomb, the soundtrack} was a huge hit. "Magic"} spent four weeks at the top of the U.S. pop} charts, while the ELO} duet "Xanadu"} reached number eight and her duet with Cliff Richard}, "Suddenly,"} peaked at number 20.

With her next album, Physical}, Newton-John} continued to rework her image, re-inventing herself as a sexy aerobics fanatic. The first single from the record, the suggestive "Physical,"} was a huge hit, spending ten weeks at number one during the fall and winter of 1981-1982. Physical} spawned another Top Ten hit -- "Make a Move on Me"} -- and became her most successful record. Following the album's success, she was awarded with an Order of the British Empire. In 1983, Newton-John} again starred with Travolta}, this time in the comedy} Two of a Kind}. The movie was a bomb, but a song she recorded for the soundtrack}, "Twist of Fate,"} became a Top Ten hit in early 1984.

By the end of 1984, Newton-John} had married actor Matt Lattanzi}. The following year, she released the Physical} clone Soul Kiss}, which produced only one minor hit with its title track. In 1986, she had a daughter named {%Chloe} and opened a clothing store chain called Koala Blue. Newton-John} attempted to launch a comeback in 1988 with The Rumour}, but the album was ignored. She signed with Geffen} the following year, releasing the children's} album Warm and Tender}. During the late '80s and '90s, she devoted herself to her family and business as well as several environmental activist organizations. In 1992, Koala Blue folded and Newton-John} was diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the next year, she successfully underwent treatment for the disease. In 1994, she returned to recording with the independently released and self-produced album Gaia}. Back With a Heart}, a return to Nashville, followed in 1998. One Woman's Live Journey} was issued two years later. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
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