Olivia Newton-John (born 26 September 1948) is a singer and actress.
She is a four-time Grammy award winner who has amassed five No. 1 and
ten other Top Ten Billboard Hot 100 singles and two No. 1 Billboard
200 solo albums. Eleven of her singles (including two platinum) and 14
of her albums (including two platinum and four double platinum) have
been certified gold by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of
America). Her music has been successful in multiple formats including
pop, country and adult contemporary and has sold an estimated over 100
million albums worldwide. She co-starred with John Travolta in the
film adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease, which featured one of the most successful film soundtracks in
Newton-John has been a long-time activist for environmental and animal rights issues. Since surviving breast cancer in 1992, she has been an advocate for health awareness becoming involved with various charities, health products and fundraising efforts. Her business interests have included launching several product lines for Koala Blue and co-owning the Gaia Retreat & Spa in Australia.
Newton-John released her first solo album, If Not For You (No. 158 Pop), in 1971. The title track, written by Bob Dylan and
previously recorded by Beatle George Harrison for his 1970 album, All Things Must Pass, was her first international hit (No. 25 Pop, No. 1 Adult
Contemporary (“AC”)). Her follow-up single, “ Banks of the Ohio,” was a Top 10 hit in England 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 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 placed fourth at the contest held in Brighton behind ABBA’s winning Waterloo. All six Eurovision contest song candidates were recorded by Newton-John and included on her Long Live Love album, her first for the EMI Records label.
In the United States, Newton-John’s 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 chart impact until 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. The album, Let Me Be There, charted No. 1 on Country Albums for two weeks as well as No. 54 on the Billboard 200.
The Long Live Love album was released in the United States as If You Love Me, Let Me Know with the six Eurovision songs dropped for four different, more country-oriented tracks intended to capitalize on the success of “Let Me Be There.” The title track was the first single reaching No. 5 Pop, No. 2 Country (her best country placement 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 No. 1 Pop (two weeks), second No. 1 AC (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.
Newton-John’s country success sparked a debate among purists who believed a foreigner singing country-flavored pop music did not belong in country music. 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 nominees Loretta Lynn, Canadian Anne Murray, Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker. This outrage 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.
Encouraged by expatriate Australian singer Helen Reddy, Newton-John left England and moved to the United States. Newton-John topped the Pop (one week) and Country (six weeks) Albums charts with her next album, Have You Never Been Mellow. 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). Newton-John’s 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
“A href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMAKE7_8AGY> 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 also 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 U.S. television special, A Special Olivia Newton-John, in November 1976.
By mid-1977, Newton-John’s AC and country success also began to wane. 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 even the AC Top 10 or the Country chart. Later that year, Olivia Newton-John’s Greatest Hits (No. 13 Pop, No. 7 Country) became her first platinum album as she prepared to launch a new phase in her career.