Olivia Newton-John was born September 26, 1948, in Cambridge, England. Her father was born in Wales and her mother in Germany. Newton-John’s father was an MI5 officer on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park who took Rudolf Hess into custody during World War II. Olivia was the youngest of three children and when she was six years old they moved to Melbourne, Australia where her father was a professor.
At the age of 14, Olivia formed an all-girl group, Sol Four” that performed in a coffee shop owned by her brother-in-law. She performed regularly as “Lovely Livvy” on local TV shows, Time for Terry and HSV-7’s The Happy Show. She appeared on the Go!! Show where she met her future duet partner, singer Pat Carroll, and her future music producer, John Farrar. In 1965 she won a talent contest TV program called 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”.
Her first single was “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine”, released on Decca Records in 1966. In 1970, American producer Don Kirshner recruited Olivia to join the group Toomorrow. the group starred in a “science fiction musical” film and recorded an accompanying soundtrack album, on RCA Records, both named after the group.
That same year the group made two single recordings, “You’re My Baby Now”/”Goin’ Back” and “I Could Never Live Without Your Love”/”Roll Like a River”. Neither track became a chart success; the project failed and the group disbanded.
I first fell in love with Olivia’s voice when I was a little girl and heard ‘I Honestly Love You.’ Songs like ‘Magic,’ ‘Suddenly’ and ‘Have You Never Been Mellow’ showcased her beautiful airy tone and signature sound. And THEN there was GREASE. I was obsessedMariah Carey
Her first LP was “If Not For You”, released on November 1, 1971. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, Studio 2, London, and produced by John Farrar. She toured across Europe opening for Cliff Richard to promote the release. The Bob Dylan song “If Not For You” hit the charts at #14 in Australia, #7 in the UK, and #25 in the US.
Everything she did was infused with a joyousness that was absolutely contagious. We loved her & she loved us. #RIP_OliviaNewtonJohnMark Hamill
In 1972, Newton-John’s second UK album, “Olivia”, was released but never formally issued in the United States. The next for the US was “Let Me Be There” in 1973 which really broke her into the American scene. The single charted #4 on Cashbox, #6 Hot 100, #3 Adult Contemporary, and #7 Hot Country Songs.
Adult Contemporary Number 1 Chart Hits
- “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 headlined her first US television special, A Special Olivia Newton-John, in November 1976. Grease would come around in 1978 soaring her career even further. She starred as Sandy alongside John Travolta in the film adaptation of the Broadway play.
The Soundtrack for Grease spent 12 weeks at number 1 on the US album charts and Olivia had three top-ten singles to show for it. The number 1 “You’re the One That I Want”, number 3 “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, and the number 5 “Summer Nights”. Olivia was 28 years old, playing the high school senior Sandy in the movie.
I think the songs are timeless. They’re fun and have great energy. The ’50s-feel music has always been popular, and it’s nostalgic for my generation, and then the young kids are rediscovering it every 10 years or so, it seems. People buying the album was a way for them to remember those feelings of watching the movie and feelings of that time period. I feel very grateful to be a part of this movie that’s still loved so much.Olivia Newton-John
Playing off the popularity of the spandex-clad Sandy image of Grease her next album was “Totally Hot” released in 1978. The single “A Little More Love” charted at number 3 while “Deeper Than the Night” made it to number 11. The album itself charted in the US at number 7.
My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much.John Travolta
In 1980, Olivia appeared with Gene Kelly and Michael Beck in the musical fantasy Xanadu. The soundtrack included her US Billboard Hot 100 song “Magic”, her duet with Cliff Richard “Suddenly” (charted 20), and “Xanadu” with the Electric Light Orchestra (charted 8). The soundtrack made number 4 on the US chart.
The perfect Lady, gorgeous, with great poise and with a certain Aussie sophistication. Her spandex trousers in Grease were my inspiration for my ‘Da ya think I’m Sexy’ era.Rod Stewart
In 1981, Newton-John released her most successful studio album, the double platinum “Physical”. The title song, written by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick, spent 10 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The two other singles from this album were “Make a Move on Me” (No. 5) and “Landslide” (No. 52 ).
I just wasn’t in the mood for tender ballads. I wanted peppy stuff because that’s how I’m feelingOlivia Newton-John
Olivia was also in movies like “She’s Having a Baby”, “A Mom for Christmas”, “A Christmas Romance”, “It’s My Party”, “Sordid Lives”, “The Wilde Girls”, “1 a Minute”, “Score: A Hockey Musical”, “A Few Best Men”, “Sharknado 5: Global Swarming”, and “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee”.
Since I was ten years old, I have loved and looked up to Olivia Newton John. And, I always will … She was, and always will be, an inspiration to me in so many, many waysKylie Minogue
I remember catching her on all the variety shows like Sonny and Cher, The Smothers Brothers, etc., and being excited to see her every time. She was beautiful and had a matching wonderful voice that I loved. Olivia had 26 studio albums, appeared on 6 soundtrack albums, 6 live albums, and 68 singles. She had had an ongoing battle with Breast Cancer that she eventually had to give into. She died at her home in the Santa Ynez Valley of California at the age of 73, on August 8. 2022.
- The Enigma machine is a cipher device developed and used in the early- to mid-20th century to protect commercial, diplomatic, and military communication. It was employed extensively by Nazi Germany during World War II, in all branches of the German military. The Enigma machine was considered so secure that it was used to encipher the most top-secret messages.