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OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN

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Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England on September 26th 1948; her family moved to Australia when she was 5. Her mother, Irene was German, daughter of the physicist Max Born, her father Brin, was Welsh, a professor of German at Cambridge and Melbourne. Despite the academic background, early on Olivia showed an interest in singing, forming a band called the Sol Four with some schoolfriends, and later on singing at her brother in law's coffee bar in Australia. She appeared in several Australian TV shows such as The Go Show as a teenager also starred in a movie Funny Things Happen Down Under which was forgettable apart from some early promise shown in Olivia's delightful rendition of "Christmas Down Under". A talent contest hosted by the Australian Johnny O'Keefe offered Olivia the prize of a trip to England, and she took this up in 1965. Her first introduction to making records was a one-off single deal with Decca Records. The single, Till You Say You'll Be Mine/For Ever, is extremely rare though these two songs were available (Oct 1994) on the British compilation CD Pop Inside the 60's. England did not make Olivia entirely happy - she missed Australia and her then boyfriend, Ian Turpie. In one interview she reports how she attempted to book her return flight without telling her mother, who had accompanied her to the UK. Fortunately for Olivia's fans and her future career her mother was not having her daughter waste this opportunity to broaden her horizons and Olivia's plans were thwarted. Things improved when Pat Carroll, a fellow Australian, arrived in the UK. Dreaming of stardom the two girls played pubs and clubs as the vocal duo imaginatively called "Pat and Olivia". New to the British music scene their initial hirings were not always a success - such as the duo's performance at Paul Raymond's Revue bar. They were somewhat taken aback by the scant attire of some of the other performers. Needless to say the duo who were dressed in high-necked frilly dresses were not asked back to what they later on discovered was a strip joint… In 1968 Bruce Welch of the Shadows fell for Olivia and they became engaged, something which was not entirely without problems as he was married at the time… Pat's visa ran out in December 1969 and she returned home. For Olivia, movie stardom beckoned as she was invited to join the band Toomorrow, which was to be Britain's answer to the Monkees. This manufactured group issued an eponymous album in 1970 to go with the film Toomorrow, but the public were not impressed and the movie closed quickly, leaving Olivia to concentrate on her solo music career. Olivia was invited to be the resident star for Cliff Richard's highly successful TV show in 1972, and she was a regular live performer in London The early Seventies was a prolific period for Olivia - her association with Cliff Richard and the Shadows brought her music to a wide audience.

Cliff Richard had a regular TV show and Olivia was a regular guest. She released the albums Olivia Newton-John (1971), and Olivia (1972), Music Makes My Day (1973). Bruce Welch arranged Olivia's first hit single, a cover of Bob Dylan's If Not For You. This single was Olivia's first taste of success in America, something she was to experience a lot more of in the next few years. Olivia reached a turning point in her career with the release of Let Me Be There which charted at #6 in America. No longer engaged to Bruce Welch, John Farrar, another member of the Shadows, took up songwriting and arrangement for her and this was a successful team which was soon to take the United States by storm. John Farrar had known Olivia from the early days and he later married Pat Carroll, Olivia's erstwhile singing partner and future business partner. While holidaying in 1974 in the South of France, Olivia met Lee Kramer, who had a successful business import/export business. The romance developed, and Lee was Olivia's boyfriend and manager for much of the rest of the decade. Just before she moved to the United States to build on her burgeoning success there, Olivia represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. Both song and Olivia's costume on the night were selected by a poll of TV viewers, and the whole mess showed just what was wrong with vox pop artistic taste. A truly awful oompah - oompah song, Long Live Love was chosen, together with a long flowing baby-blue dress for the actual performance. This time Olivia was up against strong competition - 1974 was the year that ABBA stole the show with a barnstorming performance of their song "Waterloo", which launched their international career. Olivia came fourth. America beckoned and Olivia left England in 1975 to a rapturous welcome for her next album "Have You Never Been Mellow". The title song charted at #1 and her next single from the album, Please Mr Please, reached #3. This was the start of a roll which continued throughout the 70s with a string of gold albums in the US. Olivia was to become a regular on shows like the Midnight Special, and in 1976 she had her own TV special by ABC - A Very Special Olivia Newton-John. Her US audience had loved her for her soft and delicate delivery of ballads and country songs, and she treated them to a string of albums beautifully sung - Clearly Love, Come On Over, Don't Stop Believin, and Making a Good Thing Better. Olivia toured the United States with the album Clearly Love. Olivia captured hearts in Japan with her singing as well as in the US - she toured Japan in 1976 with the album Don't Stop Believin'. Japanese listeners had loved her ever since her performance in the 1971 Tokyo Music Fair, and the 1976 concert was released as a live album in Japan titled 'Love Performance'. She won a string of Grammys for her work, and settled in Malibu, near Los Angeles, with a ranch in the mountains.

There she fulfilled a childhood ambition, keeping a number of dogs and horses on the property. As a child, she had not been able to keep many pets despite her love of animals. Her concern for animal welfare spilled over into her professional life when she refused to go to Japan until they amended tuna fishing practices to reduce the needless slaughter of dolphins in the nets.

Musically, it seemed as if Olivia was at the peak of her career, gathering awards effortlessly. In Los Angeles, a producer was looking for a female lead to play opposite John Travolta in his forthcoming movie adaptation of the stage musical Grease. Olivia was not totally sure about playing in another movie and requested a screen test after she was asked to star. The scene was the drive-in and Olivia wowed Allan Carr. Released in June 1978, Grease went on to become one of the biggest selling musicals of all time and the Grease soundtrack album stormed the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Her album, Totally Hot, also released in 1978 showed a new musical direction away from her early ballads to more upbeat rock. The album was a great success and Olivia toured America, Japan and Europe with it.

It was always going to be difficult to follow up such a huge success, and Olivia's next movie, Xanadu (1980), received a panning from the critics and did not draw the public into the cinema. However, the Xanadu soundtrack was a roaring success, with Olivia's song Magic topping the US charts, and the title song, a duet with ELO, also selling well. The movie has since become something of a cult classic, with a small but dedicated following.

The movie did have a personal spin-off for Olivia - she met her future husband, Matt Lattanzi, who was a dancer on the set of Xanadu.

In 1981 Olivia released the album Physical. The million-selling title track took up residence at #1 on the US charts for weeks - the second-longest run in the top spot. She had some trepidation about how her fans would like the new direction but she needn't have worried - they loved it!

With the aerobic feel of the title track and accompanying video, Olivia's early 80's trademark was the short cropped hair and headband. With the album there was also a full-length video, which was unusual at the time when videos were normally just for individual songs. The album was so successful that when Olivia toured with Physical the next year she played all over America to sell-out audiences.

After reaching the pinnacle of her career with Physical, Olivia wanted to take things easier. She was starting to think about other directions - one of them was starting a store with Australian novelties, which was later to turn into the "Koala Blue" fashion chain.

In an attempt to reproduce the box-office magic of 'Grease', Olivia was cast with John Travolta in the movie Two of a Kind. In interviews at the time Olivia said that this was her first opportunity to star in a non-musical movie, but the result was not a cinematic success. Once again, however, the soundtrack of Two of a Kind sold quite well with some strong tracks from Olivia and a pleasant duet with John Travolta.

Olivia married her young live-in boyfriend Matt Lattanzi, around Christmas 1984, after they had lived together for four years. The couple enjoyed a fairytale honeymoon in Paris.

Her next change in musical direction was the sultry risqué approach of "Soulkiss" it was not really a musical success. Bizarrely, the videogram was shot when Olivia was pregnant with daughter Chloe - trying not to show this constrained the artistic freedom of the director somewhat.The album, which featured Olivia in tight riding pants and boots holding a crop on the back cover, stretched things further than the public found credible.

Chloe was born early 1986, and this marked a hiatus in Olivia's music. The period 1986 to 1992 was a lean period in her entertainment career, as she dedicated herself to motherhood, and to developing her business venture, the Koala Blue chain of stores.

Olivia transformed her original idea for a Australian speciality store into a fashion chain. This enterprise was established with fellow-Australian and wife of Olivia's long-time record producer, Pat Farrar, with whom Olivia had started out singing in Britain in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Koala Blue was to be a more family-friendly alternative to an intensive singing career, but it did not last the late '80s/early '90s recession. Olivia chose to expand the franchise chain just as consumers were reining in their expenditure on non-essentials, and the company filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy amid some recriminations.

Music was not totally neglected - in 1988, Olivia brought out "The Rumour", with the title track penned by Elton John. 1988 was also the year of the Australian Bicentennial, and Olivia made a videogram titled "Down Under" for the Rumour, in which she performed the songs in some stunning Australian settings. The Australian version of the album features the song "It's Always Australia For Me" which is absent from international versions.

Warm And Tender, released in 1989, was not really aimed for the mainstream pop market. An album of children's songs and lullabies, this was really meant for Chloe. It is Olivia's first real musical indulgence, which was released on the Geffen label after MCA refused to run it.

 

Geffen released "Back To Basics, The Essential Collection" in 1992. This was to be Olivia's return to what she did best, a retrospective over her career but featuring four new songs, which Olivia promoted actively, and she was rehearsing to go on tour with the album in the late summer.

The bombshell came on July 2 - Olivia Newton-John had breast cancer. She was taken to hospital and operated on, and then had to undergo a period of chemotherapy. In February the next year she got the all-clear, and went to Australia to recuperate.

Gaia, One Woman's Journey, an intensely personal and upbeat album, was one of the fruits of Olivia's time in Australia out of the limelight. The album was not released in the United States but was widely issued on independent labels elsewhere. Olivia chose to talk about her experiences with breast cancer, so that other women in a similar position could see that survival was possible, and early detection was important.

After her recovery, there were reports of difficulty in Olivia's marriage, which came to a head in 1995 with the announcement that Olivia and husband Matt Lattanzi, were to go their separate ways and eventually divorce. For the next two years Olivia's career was a medley of different directions, with her participating in beauty ads for Home Shopping, a bit part in a US sitcom, an Australian wildlife show titled "Human Nature", appearing in an Aussie TV series "The Man From Snowy River" and acting in the movie "It's My Party" directed by Grease director Randal Kleiser.

After two years of wandering in the wilderness professionally, Olivia began to feel her way musically once again, with some fine singing for the US Christmas movie "Snowden on Ice", and some private performances at events for CHEC, a charity dear to Olivia's heart. In July 1997 MCA-Nashville signed Olivia for a pop country album, and she recorded a duet with the Raybon Bros "Falling" on their eponymous album.

"Back With a Heart" released in May 1998, found Olivia in fine form with an excellent mix of pop and country.

Teaming up with Cliff Richard in her first live performance for many years, Australian audiences were treated to Cliff and Olivia live in February and March 1998. The end of 1998 saw Olivia with two Australians for the Main Event Tour, a sellout show with extra dates added by popular demand.

It was America's turn in 1999 - starting on New Year's Eve 98/99 with a mini-tour Olivia treated audiences to a set of her greatest hits, followed by a much larger tour of the United States in the summer.

Meanwhile, a new look and a new direction called, with an acting role in Del Shores independent production of the stage play Sordid Lives

A new millennium brought a 14-date American tour in the spring/early Summer with a new line-up of songs from her Greatest Hits. Fans in Asia were also thrilled to see Olivia performing in Hong Kong and Korea during the Summer.

The Fall of 2000 saw Olivia singing to her largest audience yet - performing a duet with Australian superstar John Farnham at the Opening Ceremonies of the Sydney Olympic Games. She also performed live at Australian's Carols By Candlelight on Christmas Eve

2001 brought another tour of the United States in celebration of 30 years of music. Also filmed in Queensland, Australia was her next TV movie Wilde Girls. This also starred her daughter Chloe and premiered in November 2001 on Showtime channel. Olivia released "Magic" - a best of compilation and her first Christmas album entitled simply "The Christmas Collection."

Olivia toured the US in 2002 accompanied by a Symphony Orchestra to give a richer sound to her ballads. Olivia also released her first duet album entitled "2" in Australia. Olivia receives an ARIA Award for her contribution to Australian music.

In 2003 Olivia goes full-out touring the world - including USA, Japan and Australia. This continues in 2004 in February and the Fall.

In 2004 Olivia released her Indigo CD - a tribute to the women singers who have influenced Olivia in the early days of her career. Olivia toured the USA throughout 2004 and 2005, and Australia and Japan in 2006. Her philanthropic endeavors continue with the promotion of Livkit - a breast cancer awareness aid (now no longer available). She also started raising money for a cancer support centre in Melbourne, Australia to be named after her. In 2006 Olivia was awarded the Order of Australia, she'd already received the OBE in 1979. In 2005 Olivia released Stronger Than Before, a CD of life-affirming songs with proceeds going to breast cancer awareness. She follows this positive music with a healing CD "Grace and Gratitude" and her 2007 Christmas Wish album. The mid-2000s brought challenges for Olivia - boyfriend Patrick McDermott disappeared while on a fishing trip. However, things were to look up when she took a trip to Peru in 2007 and met John Easterling again. John founded the Amazon Herb Company (merged with TriVita in Jan 2013) which makes products using herbs and botanicals from the Amazon. John knows the Amazon well, he has been travelling to the Amazon for over three decades.

In 2010 Olivia joined the Glee cast, donning a tracksuit and sweat band to join Glee's hilarious villain Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) in a recreation of her hit song, Physical. Her next role was in the Canadian movie Score: A Hockey Musical which was released to Canadian theatres in October, a DVD and CD soundtrack followed. Her wonderful Grace and Gratitude CD was re-issued as Grace and Gratitude Renewed with an extra track and re-recordings, surpassing the original. Olivia released her Livwise book full of healthy recipes and attended book signings in New York and London with proceeds again going to her Cancer and Wellness Centre. Her next role in A Few Best Men caused somewhat of a stir, not only did it involved Olivia’s character acting outrageously but it was to produce a CD soundtrack which revealed a musical side to Olivia that fans had not seen before. Dance remixes of old pop hits remixed by producers like Chew Fu, Roulette and Archiesuch . The lyrics to the Toni Basil hit Mikey Olivia noted were much risqué than anyone seemed to have noticed before! Olivia also recorded a new song Weightless written by her old time producer John Farrar and his son Max. Christmas 2012 saw the release of a Christmas album of duets with no other than Olivia’s Grease co-star John Travolta. The CD featured a new track written and produced by John Farrar called I Think You Might Like It. Again this caused a media storm, some would argue all for the wrong reasons, as the video was mocked, but others found the message conveyed in the video heartfelt. However, this controversy only helped to propel the project to a wider audience. As Olivia herself said at the time it doesn’t matter because it was raising funds both for her Cancer Centre and John Travolta’s Jett Travolta Foundation. The year 2013 brought a UK tour, the first since 1978, delighting fans who travelled from all over Europe to catch up with her. However, later that year Olivia had to postpone her later concert dates to help take care of her beloved elder sister, Rona, who was suffering from brain cancer and died within a six weeks of diagnosis. During this sad time Olivia was involved in a car crash which led eventually to the discovery that her breast cancer had metastasized to her shoulder. This must have come as quite a blow as Olivia believed she had been cancer free for over 20 years. However, Olivia chose to keep this diagnosis secret (until 2018) and was soon re-scheduling her tour dates for the following year and continuing working and raising funds for her Cancer and Wellness Centre.

In 2017 Olivia had to cancel tour dates due to severe back pain and this was discovered, in May 2017, to be her breast cancer metastasized to her sacrum. Olivia also undertook a short course of photon radiation therapy. The outpouring of love and concern from the public was overwhelming and touched Olivia deeply. Olivia initially recovered well and went back to work later that year. She undertook a cameo in The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee movie and re-commenced her tour. However, she was still struggling again with back pain and after her annual 2018 wellness walk and research run she was taken to her hospital in Melbourne and spent her 70th birthday there. She was treated incognito and had to learn to walk again having fractured her pelvis. The first half of 2019 was a process of recovery, Olivia managing to come off morphine, given to manage her pain, and now uses medicinal cannabis, cultivated by her husband John Easterling, a plant medicine expert. Currently, Olivia is doing really well and managing her cancer diagnosis, under the expertise of husband John, with herbs, immune building supplements and medicinal cannabis and is not taking any prescription drugs. Despite her health setback Olivia celebrated the 40th anniversary of Grease in 2018 with John Travolta with some Grease singalongs. Her longtime producer and writer of many of her hits, John Farrar, has received many awards over the years including a 1974 Grammy. In January 2018 Olivia was delighted to add to these awards at the G’Day USA Gala where she and John Travolta presented him with an Outstanding Achievement in the Arts. An Australian TV movie about her life had been in the pipeline for a few years. Olivia gave reluctant approval for this to be made, they were going to make it anyway so Olivia decided she’d co-operate if her proceeds went to her Cancer and Wellness Centre. It helped that it starred her good friend Delta Goodrem and she recorded two of her hits as duets with Delta, one of which is the lovely Love Is A Gift. The TV movie was later released on DVD but Olivia has yet to watch it, no doubt her innate modesty and privacy make this difficult. The last couple of years have bestowed on Olivia numerous awards, in 2018 she received the Honorary Doctorate of Letters from La Trobe University in Melbourne. In 2019 she received the Companion (AC) of the Order of Australia (General Division), this is the highest Australian honor. At the end of 2019 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty the Queen, becoming Dame Olivia Newton-John. These awards are in recognition of her contribution to music, cancer research and charity. In 2019 Olivia organized an auction of some of her clothing and memorabilia to be auctioned off in aid of her Cancer and Wellness Centre. Her infamous leather jacket from the final scene of Grease was auctioned for a whopping $405,000, in a wonderful surprise twist the mystery buyer of the jacket returned it to Olivia. Therefore, Olivia got to keep the jacket (it may in future be displayed in her Cancer and Wellness Centre) and her Centre still benefited from the proceeds! Olivia’s January 2021 release of Window In The Wall single with daughter Chloe continues the women’s work promoting understanding and love. 2021 began a partnership with Primary Wave Music Publishing to bring her music to a wider audience. The well-renowned producer, remixer and songwriter Vinny Vero is currently working on remastering and digitalizing her work for future releases. The first release of this was for the Physical album's 40th anniversary - an extended Deluxe album along with a DVD was re-released in October 2021. 2022 is said to bring a duet album………… On 8 August 2022, Newton-John died of cancer at her Santa Ynez Valley home in California, aged 73

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