Olivia Newton-John AO, OBE (born 26 September 1948 in Cambridge, United Kingdom) is a British-born, Australian-raised 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 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. Many of her singles and albums were successful in multiple formats including Pop, Country and Adult Contemporary. She co-starred with John Travolta in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical, Grease, which became the highest grossing movie musical and one of the most successful film soundtracks in Hollywood history.
Newton-John has been a long-time activist for environmental and animal rights issues. Since having breast cancer in 1992, from which she recovered, she has also been a tireless advocate for health awareness becoming involved with various charities, health products and fundraising efforts to eradicate the disease. Her business interests have included launching several product lines for Koala Blue and co-owning the Gaia Retreat & Spa in Australia.
Newton-John has married twice and currently lives with her second husband, John Easterling, in Florida. She is the mother of one daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, with her first husband, actor Matt Lattanzi.
Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England, to a Welsh-born father, Brinley ("Bryn") Newton-John, and a German-born mother, Irene Born (who was the eldest child of the Nobel prize winning atomic physicist Max Born). Newton-John is the youngest of three children, following brother Hugh, a doctor, and sister Rona, an actress and cast member of the Benny Hill Show once married to Grease co-star Jeff Conaway. Newton-John's father was an MI5 officer on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park and was the officer who took Rudolph Hess into custody during World War II. Newton-John's family emigrated in 1954 to Melbourne, Australia, where her father worked as a Professor of German and became the Master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne.
At 14, Newton-John formed a short-lived all-girl band, Sol Four, with three classmates and often performed in a coffee shop owned by her brother-in-law. She soon became a regular on local Australian radio and television shows including HSV-7's The Happy Show where she performed as Lovely Livvy. She also appeared on the Go Show where she met her lifelong friends Pat Carroll and John Farrar. (Carroll and Farrar eventually married.) She entered 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 won the contest and received a trip to England as the prize. Initially, she was reluctant to go, but her mother encouraged her to broaden her horizons.
Newton-John recorded her first single, "Till You Say You'll Be Mine" b/w "Forever," for England's Decca Records in 1966. Newton-John was homesick in England because she missed Australia and her then-boyfriend, Ian Turpie, with whom she co-starred in an independently produced Australian telefilm, Funny Things Happen Down Under. Her mother cancelled trips back to Australia that Newton-John would repeatedly book. Newton-John's outlook changed when Pat Carroll also moved to England. The two formed a duo and toured nightclubs in Europe until Carroll's visa expired forcing her to return to Australia. Newton-John remained in England to pursue solo work.
Newton-John was recruited for the group "Toomorrow" ? the brainchild of American producer Don Kirshner, music director of The Monkees. In 1970, the group recorded an eponymous album and starred in a "science fiction musical" film also named after the group. The project failed and the group was quickly disbanded.
Newton-John released her first solo album, If Not For You, in 1971. The title track, written by Bob Dylan, was her first international hit (No. 25 Pop, No. 1 Adult Contemporary ). (If Not For You was originally recorded by Beatle George Harrison on his triple album All Things Must Pass 1970.) Her follow-up, "Banks of the Ohio," was a Top 10 hit in England and Australia, but faltered in the U.S. (No. 94 Pop, No. 34 AC). 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 the United States, Newton-John's career foundered after If Not For You 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 song also propelled the album Let Me Be There to No. 1 on the Country Albums chart for two weeks.
In 1974, Newton-John represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song, "Long Live Love". The song was chosen for her by the British public. Newton-John placed fourth at the contest in Brighton behind ABBA's winning "Waterloo". (Newton-John would later admit that she disliked the song.) All six song candidates for the contest were recorded by Newton-John and included on her Long Live Love album, her first for the EMI Records label. In North America, this album was released by MCA Records as If You Love Me, Let Me Know, with the six Eurovision songs dropped for four different, more-country-oriented tracks 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 ever), and No. 2 AC. The next single, "I Honestly Love You," became Newton-John's signature song. Written by Jeff Barry and Peter Allen , the ballad became her first No. 1 Pop (two weeks) and second No. 1 AC (three weeks) hit (also No. 6 Country) and earned Newton-John two more Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop 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 was reviled by 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 nominees Loretta Lynn, Canadian Anne Murray, Dolly Parton, and Tanya Tucker , all established country music artists. Newton-John's win outraged many country artists leading to the formation of the short-lived Association of Country Entertainers (ACE). Newton-John was eventually supported by most in 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. Newton-John and Dolly Parton would eventually form a friendship, and would cover one-another's songs (Parton performing "Let Me Be There" on her 1976-77 variety show Dolly!, and Newton-John covering Parton's "Jolene" in 1976).
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 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 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 Pop Albums 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
"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. 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, did not reach even the AC Top 10 or the Country chart. Although the release that same year of Olivia Newton-John's Greatest Hits (No. 13 Pop, No. 7 Country) became her first platinum album, Newton-John prepared to move her career in new directions.
Newton-John's career soared after starring in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease in 1978. She was offered the lead role of Sandy after a chance meeting with producer Allan Carr at a dinner party held by Helen Reddy in her Los Angeles home. Burned by her Toomorrow experience and concerned that she was too old to play a high school senior (she turned 29 during the later 1977 filming), Newton-John insisted on a screen test with the film's co-star, John Travolta. The film accommodated Newton-John's Australian accent by recasting her character from the play's original American Sandy Dumbrowski to Sandy Olsson, an Australian who vacations and then moves with her family to the United States.
The release of the film was preceded one month by the telecast of Newton-John's second television special, Olivia. Grease became the biggest box-office hit of 1978 and remained popular enough that it was re-released in theaters on its 20th anniversary in 1998. The soundtrack spent 12 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 and yielded three Top 5 singles for Newton-John: the No. 1 "You're The One That I Want" (with John Travolta), the No. 3 "Hopelessly Devoted To You," and the No. 5 "Summer Nights" (with John Travolta and the film's cast). The former two songs were written by Newton-John's long-time producer, John Farrar, specifically for the film. Newton-John became the second female (after Linda Ronstadt in 1977) to have two singles ? "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Summer Nights" ? in the Billboard Top 5 simultaneously. Newton-John's performance earned her a People's Choice award for Favorite Motion Picture Actress. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Musical and performed the Oscar-nominated "Hopelessly Devoted To You" at the 1979 Academy Awards. To this day, the soundtrack still sells several thousand copies per week and often appears on Billboard's Soundtracks chart.
Newton-John's transformation in the film from goody-goody "Sandy 1" to spandex-clad "Sandy 2" emboldened Newton-John to do the same with her music career. In November 1978, she released the pop album Totally Hot, which became her first solo Top 10 (No. 7) album since Have You Never Been Mellow. Dressed on the cover all in leather, the album's singles "A Little More Love" (No. 3 Pop, No. 94 Country, No. 4 AC), "Deeper Than The Night" (No. 11 Pop, No. 87 Country, No. 4 AC), and the title track (No. 52 Pop) all demonstrated a more aggressive and more uptempo sound for Newton-John. Although the album clearly de-emphasized country, it still reached No. 4 on the Country Albums chart. Newton-John released the B-side, "Dancin' 'Round And 'Round," of the "Totally Hot" single to Country radio, where it peaked at No. 29 (as well as No. 82 Pop and No. 25 AC), becoming her last charted solo Country airplay single to date.
Newton-John began 1980 by releasing I Can't Help It (No. 12 Pop, No. 8 AC), a duet with Andy Gibb from his After Dark album, and by starring in her third television special, Hollywood Nights. Later that year, she appeared in her first film since Grease starring in the musical Xanadu with Gene Kelly and Michael Beck. Although the movie was a critical failure, it was ultimately profitable and its soundtrack was certified double platinum. The soundtrack (No. 4 Pop) boasted five Top 20 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 , including Newton-John's Magic (No. 1 Pop, No. 1 AC), Suddenly with Cliff Richard (No. 20 Pop, No. 4 AC), and the title-song with ELO (No. 8 Pop, No. 2 AC). Magic was Newton-John's biggest Pop hit to that point (four weeks at No. 1) and still ranks as the biggest AC hit of her career (five weeks at No. 1). The film has since become a cult classic and the basis for a well-reviewed, Tony-nominated Broadway show that ran for more than 500 performances in 2007?2008.
In 1981, Newton-John released her most successful studio album, the double platinum Physical. The title track, written by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick, spent ten weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, matching the record of most weeks at No. 1 held by Debby Boone's You Light Up My Life. The single was certified platinum and it ultimately ranked as the biggest song of the decade. (In 2008, Billboard ranked the song No. 6 among all songs that charted in the 50-year history of the Hot 100.) The song even earned Newton-John her only placement ever on the R&B Singles (No. 28) and Albums (No. 32) chart. The Physical album spawned two more singles, Make a Move on Me (No. 5 Pop, No. 6 AC) and Landslide (No. 52 Pop).
Olivia Newton-John at the opening of a Koala Blue store in 1988.
To counter the overtly suggestive tone of the title track, Newton-John filmed an exercise-themed video that turned the song into an aerobics anthem (and made headbands a fashion accessory outside the gym). Newton-John became a pioneer in the nascent music video industry by recording a video album for Physical featuring videos of all the album's tracks and three of her older hits. The video album earned her a fourth Grammy and was aired as an ABC prime time special, Let's Get Physical, becoming a Top 10 Nielsen hit. The success of Physical led to an international tour and the release of her second hits collection, the double platinum Olivia's Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (No. 16 Pop), which yielded two more Top 40 singles: Heart Attack (No. 3 Pop) and Tied Up (No. 38 Pop). The tour was filmed for her Olivia In Concert television special which premiered on HBO in January 1983. The special was subsequently released to video earning Newton-John another Grammy nomination.
Newton-John re-teamed with Travolta in 1983 for the critically and commercially unsuccessful Two of a Kind, redeemed by its platinum soundtrack (No. 26 Pop) featuring Twist Of Fate (No. 5 Pop) , Livin' In Desperate Times (No. 31 Pop), and a new duet with Travolta, Take A Chance (No. 3 AC). Newton-John released another video package, the Grammy-nominated Twist Of Fate, featuring videos of her four songs on the Two of a Kind soundtrack and the two new singles from Olivia's Greatest Hits Vol. 2.
The same year, Newton-John and Pat Farrar founded Koala Blue. The store was originally for Australian imports, but evolved into a chain of women's clothing boutiques. The chain was initially successful, but eventually declared bankruptcy and closed in 1992. Newton-John and Farrar would later license the brand name for a line of Australian produced wines, confections, and bed/bath products.
Newton-John at the 1989 Academy Awards.
Newton-John married long-time boyfriend Matt Lattanzi in December 1984. The couple had met four years earlier while filming Xanadu. (They divorced in 1995.) Newton-John resumed recording in 1985 with the release of the gold Soul Kiss (No. 29 Pop). The album's only charted single was the title track (No. 20 Pop, No. 20 AC). Newton-John's pregnancy with daughter Chloe Rose Lattanzi (b. January 1986) limited her publicity for the album. The video album for Soul Kiss featured videos of only five of the album's ten tracks, and the album's second single, Toughen Up, failed to even chart.
After a three-year hiatus to raise Chloe, Newton-John returned with 1988's The Rumour. The album was promoted by an HBO special, Olivia Down Under, and its first single, the title track, was written and produced by Elton John. Both the single (No. 62 Pop, No. 33 AC) and the album (No. 67 Pop) fizzled as the nearly 40 year-old Newton-John seemed "old" when compared with the teen queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany ruling the charts at that time. The second single, the Sandy Linzer/Irwin Levine?penned Can't We Talk It Over In Bed, did not chart. (Grayson Hugh, the song's arranger, subsequently released his version of the song as Talk It Over in 1989 and it became a Top 20 Pop hit.) A year later, Newton-John recorded her "self-indulgent" album, Warm and Tender, featuring lullabies and love songs for parents and their children. This album also did not revive her recording career struggling to No. 124 Pop.
Breast cancer survivor and health advocate
Newton-John was primed for another comeback in 1992 when she compiled her third hits collection, Back To Basics ? The Essential Collection 1971?1992 (No. 121 Pop), and planned her first tour since her Physical trek ten years earlier. Shortly after the album's release, Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer, forcing her to cancel all publicity for the album, including the tour. (Newton-John received her diagnosis on the same weekend her father died.) Newton-John recovered and has since become a tireless advocate for breast cancer research and other health issues. She has been a product spokesperson for the Liv-Kit, a breast self-examination product. She is co-owner of the Gaia Retreat and Spa in Byron Bay, Australia, which is advertised as "the ideal place to renew, refresh, and restore your mind, body and soul."
Newton-John's cancer diagnosis affected the type of music she recorded. In 1994, she released Gaia: One Woman's Journey, which chronicled her ordeal. This was the first album on which Newton-John wrote all of the songs, encouraging her to become more active as a songwriter thereafter. In 2005, she released Stronger Than Before, sold exclusively in the United States by Hallmark. Proceeds from the album's sales benefited breast cancer research. The album featured the song Phenomenal Woman based on the poem by Maya Angelou that featured guest vocals from Diahann Carroll, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Delta Goodrem, Amy Holland, Patti LaBelle, and Mindy Smith who were all cancer survivors or whose lives were affected by the disease. The following year, Newton-John released a healing CD, Grace And Gratitude. The album was sold exclusively by Walgreens, also benefitting various charities such as Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, and was the "heart" of their "Body ? Heart ? Spirit" Wellness Collection. The collection also featured a re-branded Liv-Kit and breast-health dietary supplements.
In 2008, Newton-John raised funds to help build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia. She led a three-week, 228 km walk along the Great Wall of China during April joined by various celebrities and cancer survivors throughout her trek. The walk symbolized the steps cancer patients must take on their road to recovery. Newton-John released a companion CD, A Celebration In Song, the following month in Australia and later worldwide featuring new and previously recorded duets by "Olivia Newton-John & Friends." Her "Friends" included Jann Arden, Jimmy Barnes, John Farrar, Barry Gibb, Delta Goodrem, Sun Ho, Richard Marx, Cliff Richard, Melinda Schneider, Amy Sky and Keith Urban. In October, Newton-John helped launch the www.liv.com website and teamed with fitness franchise Curves to distribute one million Liv-Aid breast self-examination aids for Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Newton-John's spirituality also extended to the release of several Christmas albums. In 2000, she teamed with Vince Gill and the London Symphony Orchestra for 'Tis The Season, sold exclusively through Hallmark. The following year, she released The Christmas Collection, which compiled seasonal music previously recorded for her Hallmark Christmas album, her appearance on Kenny Loggins' 1999 TNN Christmas special, and her contributions to the Mother And Child and Spirit Of Christmas multi-artist collections. In 2007, she re-teamed with her Grace And Gratitude producer, Amy Sky, for Christmas Wish (No. 187 Pop), which was sold exclusively by Target.
Newton-John's spiritual, contemplative music was complemented by her pop-oriented releases. In 1998, she returned to Nashville to record Back With A Heart (No. 59 Pop). The album returned her to the Top 10 (No. 9) on the Country Albums chart. Its only single was a remake of I Honestly Love You produced by David Foster and featuring Babyface on background vocals that charted Pop (No. 67) and AC (No. 18). Country radio dismissed the song, although it did peak at No. 16 on the Country Sales chart. The album track, Love Is A Gift, won Newton-John a 1999 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Song after being featured on the daytime serial, As The World Turns.
Newton-John's subsequent albums were all released primarily in Australia. Newton-John, John Farnham and Anthony Warlow toured Australia as The Main Event. The live album won an ARIA Award for Highest Selling Australian CD and was also nominated for Best Adult Contemporary Album. She and Farnham performed Dare To Dream at the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In 2002, Newton-John released (2), a duets album featuring mostly Australian artists including Darren Hayes, Tina Arena, Jimmy Little, Billy Thorpe and Johnny O'Keefe as well as a heartfelt "duet" with the deceased Peter Allen. The same year, Newton-John was inducted into Australia's ARIA Hall of Fame. 2004 brought 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 who died the previous year.
Newton-John acted occasionally since Two of a Kind. She appeared in a supporting role in the 1996 AIDS drama, It's My Party ? her first feature film since Two Of A Kind. In 2000, she appeared in a dramatically different role as Bitsy Mae Harling, a lesbian ex-con country singer, in Del Shores' Sordid Lives. Newton-John reprised her role for Sordid Lives: The Series which aired one season on the LOGO television network . The series featured five original songs written by Newton-John specifically for the show.
Newton-John's television work included starring in two Christmas movies, A Mom For Christmas (1990) and A Christmas Romance (1994) ? both Top 10 Nielsen hits. Her daughter, Chloe, starred as one of her children in both A Christmas Romance and in the 2001 Showtime film The Wilde Girls. Newton-John guest-starred as herself in the sitcoms Ned and Stacey, Murphy Brown and Bette. In Australia, Newton-John hosted Wild Life, a show about animals and nature ? two major interests for Newton-John. She also guest starred as Joanna on two episodes of the Australian series The Man From Snowy River.
After her 1995 divorce from Matt Lattanzi, Newton-John met gaffer/cameraman Patrick McDermott the following year. The couple dated on and off for nine years until he went missing following a 2005 fishing trip off the California coast. Various theories abounded regarding his disappearance ranging from his death by accident or foul play to McDermott staging his disappearance to avoid child support payments to his ex-wife, actress Yvette Nipar. Newton-John, who was in Australia at her self-owned Gaia Retreat & Spa at the time of his disappearance, was never a suspect and refused to comment on any speculation. A US Coast Guard investigation released in 2008 "suggest McDermott was lost at sea." Newton-John returned to the tabloid headlines again in 2007 when it was revealed that her daughter was recovering from anorexia. Patrick McDermott has since been seen in a photograph with his hair dyed black, in an apparent bid to alter his appearance, living in a fishing village in Mexico.
Newton-John released another concert DVD, Olivia Newton-John and the Sydney Symphony: Live at the Sydney Opera House, and a companion CD, Olivia's Live Hits, in January 2008. An edited version of the DVD premiered on PBS station, WLIW (Garden City, New York), in October 2007 and subsequently aired nationally during the network's fund-raising pledge drives. This was Newton-John's third live album after the 1981 Japanese release, Love Performance, and her 2000 Australian release, One Woman's Live Journey.
In June 2008, Newton-John secretly wed John ("Amazon John") Easterling, founder and president of natural remedy firm, Amazon Herb Company. The couple met 15 years earlier, but only became romantically involved in 2007. (Like Newton-John, this was Easterling's second marriage.) The couple married alone in a private Incan spiritual ceremony in Cuzco, Peru on June 21 followed nine days later by a legal ceremony on the Jupiter Island beachfront in Florida. There were no guests at either service since the couple preferred to marry simply and privately. Only Newton-John's daughter, Chloe, was aware of the nuptials. The couple did not announce their marriage until a July 4 barbecue at Newton-John's Malibu, California home where guests were surprised with the news. The wedding was confirmed thereafter by HELLO! magazine which published exclusive pictures of both weddings. In June 2009, Newton-John purchased a new $4.1 million home in Jupiter Inlet $4.1 million.
Newton-John resumed touring in 1999. Her current tour schedule can be found at http:olivianewton-john.com/tour.html
Newton-John joined Judy Brooks and Roy Walkenhorst as co-host of the health and well-being series, Healing Quest, currently airing on PBS.
Newton-John has been promoting Zamu with her husband, Easterling. Zamu is an organic drink supplement produced by Amazon Herb which was founded by Easterling.
Newton-John will be featured in UniGlobe Entertainment's breast cancer docu-drama titled 1 a Minute scheduled for release in 2010. The documentary is being made by actress Namrata Singh Gujral and will also feature breast cancer suriviors Diahann Carroll, Melissa Etheridge, Namrata Singh Gujral, Mumtaz (actress) and Jaclyn Smith as well as William Baldwin, Daniel Baldwin and Priya Dutt.