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Olivia Newton-John: About

Olivia Newton-John AO OBE (born September 26, 1948, Cambridge) is an English-born Australian singer and actress.

Early life

Newton-John is the granddaughter of Max Born, a German Nobel prize-winning physicist who fled from Germany with his wife in the 1930s in order to avoid persecution due to Born's Jewish heritage and his wife's part Jewish descent (although Olivia herself is a Christian). Olivia's father, Brin Newton-John, originally from Wales, was an MI5 officer attached to the Enigma machine project at Bletchley Park, and the officer who took Rudolf Hess into custody when he parachuted into Scotland in May 1941. After World War II, he became a professor of German at the UNSW annex at Tighes Hill in Newcastle, Australia.

In 1954, at the age of five, Newton-John, her parents Brin and Irene, and her older siblings Hugh and Rona, relocated to Melbourne, Australia, where her father had taken a job at Melbourne University as the Master of Ormond College. Her parents divorced when she was eleven years old.


Early career

By the age of 15, Newton-John had formed an all-girl band, Sol Four, and soon was a regular on local television (such as The Tarax Happy Show as Lovely Livvy) and radio shows in Australia. She entered a talent contest on the television programme Sing, Sing, Sing, hosted by 1960s Australian icon Johnny O'Keefe, and performed the songs "Anyone Who Had A Heart" and "Everything's Coming Up Roses." She won the contest and received a trip to England as the prize. Initially, she did not want to go, but her mother encouraged her to broaden her horizons.

By 1963, Newton-John was appearing on the local daytime TV shows and weekly pop programs in Australia. It was on the Go Show, where she met her lifelong friends, Pat Carroll and John Farrar. (Carroll and Farrar eventually married.)

When she was 16 years old, Newton-John returned to England to live with her mother. Newton-John was homesick in England as she missed Australia and her then boyfriend, Ian Turpie (whom with she co-starred in an independantly produced Australian telefilm Funny Things Happen Down Under). This changed when friend Pat Carroll also moved to England. The two formed a duo and toured nightclubs in Europe. After Carroll's visa expired, and she had to return to Australia, Newton-John cut her first solo single, "Till You Say You'll Be Mine," backed with "For Ever," for Decca Records in England in 1966.

Newton-John's first album was titled Toomorrow , which was also the name of her musical group at the time. They were the brainchild of American producer Don Kirshner, creator of The Monkees. The group also starred in the movie Toomorrow.

Although the band and film were commercially unsuccessful, Newton-John's solo career started to take off with her first solo album titled Olivia Newton-John, which was released in the United Kingdom on Pye Records. Newton-John quickly became one of Britain's most popular singers. She was voted Best British Female Vocalist two years in a row by the magazine Record Mirror. In 1968 she met The Shadows' guitarist Bruce Welch, to whom she became engaged until 1972. They made appearances on Cliff Richard's weekly show It's Cliff Richard and she starred with Cliff in the telefilm The Case.

International success

Newton-John's first international hit was a song written by Bob Dylan called "If Not For You," which was produced by Bruce Welch and her friend John Farrar and released in 1971. She represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 singing "Long Live Love" and came in at fourth place. Later in the year, the album If You Love Me, Let Me Know and the single "I Honestly Love You" were released in the United States, and "I Honestly Love You" became her first single to chart at #1 across the Atlantic.

In 1975, encouraged by expatriate Australian singer Helen Reddy, Newton-John left England and moved to the United States, where she became a popular singer in both country and popular music. The 1975 release of Have You Never Been Mellow yielded a #1 album and a #1 song (the title single), and helped to continue her U.S. success. She had three more #1 hits, including the song Physical, which stayed at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for ten weeks. She has received four Grammys in her career.

In the country music field, she was respected and loved by fans as much as she was reviled by country purists who believed her brand of music had no place on country radio. In 1974, she won the Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year award, beating out such country heavyweights as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Anne Murray and Tanya Tucker. Another country icon, Tammy Wynette, was not even nominated. Newton-John's win angered many pure country artists and fans, and perhaps as a direct result, some country artists and other influential personalities became members of a newly formed organization called the Association of Country Entertainers.

Newton-John's music video for "Physical" was one of several that popularized this style of song promotion in the early 1980s; it became notorious upon its release due to it being banned in some locations because of the sensual nature of the video and its lyrics. Still, her international success kept her in the public eye and provided continued music sales for many years after.

Film and television

Newton-John's film breakthrough came when she was offered the female lead in Grease (1978), after a chance meeting with producer Allan Carr at a party at Helen Reddy's house in Los Angeles. John Travolta, already chosen as the male lead in the movie, wanted Newton-John to be his co-star in the film, and he let his wishes be known to Carr and director Randal Kleiser before either of them met Newton-John. Concerned that she was either too old or not confident enough to play the part, Newton-John insisted on a screen test with Travolta. She liked what she saw when she viewed the test and then happily signed on for the project, shot in the summer of 1977.

The film was the biggest box office hit of 1978 and remained popular enough that it was re-released in theaters in the United States on its 20th anniversary. Two songs from the movie soundtrack, "You're The One That I Want" and "Summer Nights," went to #1 on US and international charts and stood at the #1 position for nine and seven weeks respectively on the UK charts. Newton-John's solo number "Hopelessly Devoted To You" was also a hit. The album was also a huge hit in Australia and Newton-John attended the premieres in both Sydney and Melbourne. She was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Musical for her role in "Grease".

To follow this success, Newton-John released the album Totally Hot in 1978 with extensive promotion. The release was another critical and commercial success. It spawned the smash hit "A Little More Love," # 11 single "Deeper Than The Night," and the # 52 title track "Totally Hot." A more ambitious album than some of Newton-John's earlier releases, the record included both sexy up-tempo numbers (including a spirited remake of the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin"), alongside characteristically beautiful ballads. With this, Newton-John further established herself as one of the most versatile and appealing female pop vocalists of her generation. The album also cemented Newton-John's transformation into a sex symbol.

In 1980, she took the lead with Gene Kelly and Michael Beck in the musical feature film, Xanadu. While at the time, the movie was considered a critical and commercial failure, over the years, it has gained a considerable cult following. The Xanadu soundtrack had several commercially successful singles like Magic, Suddenly and title-song Xanadu. Its production was a collaborative effort with Electric Light Orchestra and notable performance between Gene Kelly and The Tubes mixing swing and new wave punk. In 1981, Newton-John received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of her outstanding career.

1981 saw the release of Olivia's most successful studio album yet, Physical. The title track spent ten weeks at #1 on the Billboard hot 100. It saw further success with "Make A Move On Me" and "Landslide". Taking advantage of the brand-new MTV, Olivia filmed a video album for all 10 tracks, as well as a few older songs. In January 1982, Olivia: Let's Get Physical aired on ABC and the video collection was subsequently released on home video.

In 1983, she re-teamed with John Travolta in the critically and commercially unsuccessful Two of a Kind, redeemed by fans as the source of a successful soundtrack including "Twist of Fate" and a new duet with Travolta, "Take a Chance". She also appeared in a dramatically different role in Del Shore's Sordid Lives as Bitsy Mae Harling, a lesbian ex-con country and western singer (a long way from her role as Sandy in Grease).

Newton-John has done a body of television work as well. She starred in the television movies A Mom For Christmas and A Christmas Romance. She has also guest-starred in sitcoms (mostly as herself) such as Murphy Brown, Bette, and Ned and Stacey and the made for TV film The Wilde Girls, which featured her daughter Chloe Rose Lattanzi.

Newton-John has also hosted Wild Life, a show about animals and nature, two major interests for Newton-John. She was a guest star in two episodes of the Australian series The Man From Snowy River as Joanna.

Later career

In 1983, Newton-John and longtime friend Pat Farrar founded Koala Blue, a chain of women's clothing boutiques, with the designs of the apparel based on the unique style and colours of Australia. The chain was successful for some time but eventually went out of business. However, Newton-John and Farrar have licensed the brand name for a line of Australian produced wines, confections, and other items.

1985's Soul Kiss marked a downturn in popularity, spawning only one minor hit with the title track. 1988's The Rumour didn't fare any better but has since become known as a gem in her vast catalog.

In 1992 Newton-John underwent breast cancer surgery, from which she recovered. She now actively promotes public awareness of the importance of early detection of the disease. In October 2005, she released Stronger Than Before, an album promoting breast cancer awareness, sold exclusively through Hallmark Gold Crown? stores.

She is currently raising funds to build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre .

In 1998 Newton-John, John Farnham and Anthony Warlow formed a powerful trio on the Main Event tour which travelled to all major Australian capital cities and spawned a Top 10 CD which won an ARIA Award for Highest Selling Australian CD. In 2002, Newton-John was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

She sang the duet "Dare to Dream" with John Farnham at the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She was also an Olympic torch bearer, running the route around the Sydney Opera House on the eve of the opening ceremony.

In 2002, Newton-John released 2, a duets album featuring singers such as Darren Hayes, Tina Arena, Jimmy Little and Billy Thorpe as well as heartfelt duet-tributes with Peter Allen and Johnny O'Keefe. The album went in the Top 5 in Australia, followed by a successful Australian tour playing in Australia's main cities' entertainment centres and theatres.

2004 saw the death of her mother Irene and the release of Indigo: Women of Song, a tribute album covering songs by The Carpenters, Minnie Riperton, Doris Day, Nina Simone, Joan Baez, and others. Newton-John dedicated the album to her mother and the record went gold in Australia.

Newton-John continued with her U.S. tour in 2005 to support her new album Stronger Than Before. She chose the song "Serenity," a cut from this album which is based on a popular prayer, to end the show, instead of her signature closer, "I Honestly Love You." In November 2005, accompanied by long time friend Cliff Richard, she attended the Country Music Association Awards in New York City, where she presented fellow Australian Keith Urban with the CMA's highest honor: Entertainer Of The Year. She toured in Japan, New Zealand, and Australia in early 2006, and is scheduled to tour in the USA in the fall of 2006.

Olivia has recently finished working on a "healing music" CD for release October 2006. The title is "Grace and Gratitude" and it will launch Olivia's signature line of body, heart, and spirit wellness products for women that will be available exclusively at Walgreens Drug Store in the US. The album was recorded in Toronto, Canada with Amy Sky who Olivia has worked with in the past. Amy co-wrote the haunting Winter Angel and other songs for the Rumour CD and most recently on the Stonger Than Before CD.

Personal life

Newton-John was married to Matt Lattanzi from 1984 to 1995. They had one child during their marriage, a girl named Chloe Rose Lattanzi, born in 1986. Chloe will be launching her own pop career later in 2006 with her debut album Lonely Nights in Paradise.

From 1996, Newton-John lived together with gaffer/cameraman Patrick McDermott. However, on June 30 2005, directly before her new album Stronger Than Before hit stores, McDermott went missing following a fishing trip off the coast of California. The Coast Guard has not ruled out the possibility of foul play but concedes that they have few leads. Olivia, who was vacationing at her self-owned Gaia Retreat & Spa in Australia at the time, is not a suspect.

Fox News Network reported on June 4, 2006, that some witnesses claim to have seen McDermott alive and well in Mexico. The prevailing theory is that he staged his disappearance in order to avoid court proceedings brought by an ex-wife concerning child support payments. Newton-John has refused to comment on such speculation.


In 1979, Olivia Newton-John was appointed an Officer (OBE) of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2002, she was inducted into the Australian Music Hall of Fame by the Australian Recording Industry Association.

In 2006, she was named an Officer (AO) in the Order of Australia for "service to the entertainment industry as a singer and actor, and to the community through organisations supporting breast cancer treatment, education, training and research, and the environment".  


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