"There's a rumor going around that I'm Miss Goody-two-shoes from Australia. Well, that's a laugh. I'm really Miss Goody-two-shoes from England!" Olivia Newton-John
England-born, Australia-raised singer/songwriter Olivia Newton-John has charted over 25 Top 40 singles, more than half of which went Top 10, including the five #1 hits "I Honestly Love You" (1974), "Have You Never Been Mellow" (1975), "You're The One That I Want" (with John Travolta; 1978), "Magic" (1980) and "Physical" (1981). The Grammy-winning singer also branched out into acting and was shot to fame in 1978 when she starred as Sandy Olsson, opposite John Travolta, in the massive hit film adaptation of the Broadway musical, “Grease.”
The 5' 6" performer appeared on “People Weekly” magazine's first official pop cover (February 24, 1975) and was chosen by “People Magazine” as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” (1998). She also ranked #95 on VH1's “100 Greatest Women of Rock N Roll” and #92 on VH1's “100 Sexiest Artists.” She has one daughter from her marriage with actor Matt Lattanzi, whom she was married to from 1984 to 1994. Her long-time boyfriend, photographer/cameraman Patrick McDermott, went missing after going on an overnight fishing trip out of San Pedro, California, in June 2005.
"There's a balance in my life. There's reality and there's the part that looks really glamorous, but we're all just people in the end." Olivia Newton-John
Newton-John, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and subsequently underwent a partial mastectomy and breast reconstruction, is also an avid activist for both environmental issues and breast cancer awareness. She was awarded the O.A.M. (Officer of the Order of Australia Medal) in 2006’s Queen's Birthday Honors List for her services to entertainment and her fight against breast cancer, as well as the Officer Of the Order of The British Empire (OBE) from Queen Elizabeth II for her services to the entertainment industry and charity in 1979.
Childhood and Family:
Born in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, on September 26, 1948, Olivia Newton-John moved with her family to Australia at age 5 when her father, Brinley Newton-John, a Welsh professor of German, was offered a job as the dean of a college in Melbourne. After dropping out of Australia's University High School when she was in her mid-teens and winning a singing talent contest, she returned to live in England with her mother, Irene Born (born on May 25, 1914). In the mid '70s, Olivia moved to Los Angeles, California, where she was established as a Pop and Country singer.
Olivia, nicknamed “Livvy,” “The Goddess,” “Lovely Livvy,” or “Olivia Neutron-Bomb,” has two siblings, a sister named Rona Newton-John (actress; at one time married to actor Jeff Conaway) and a brother named Hugh Newton-John (doctor). Her maternal grandfather is Lutheran German Nobel prize-winning physicist and mathematician Max Born (born on December 11, 1882; died on January 5, 1970). Actress/singer Tottie Goldsmith (born on August 27, 1962; father: Brian Goldsmith; mother: Rona Newton-John) is her niece.
"I do have high standards, but I don't expect anything from anyone that I don't expect from myself.” Olivia Newton-John
For a while, Olivia was engaged to Bruce Welch, a member of “The Shadows.” She was married to actor Matt Lattanzi (born on February 1, 1959) from December 15, 1984, to 1995, and has one child with him, a daughter named Chloe Rose Lattanzi (actress, singer; born on January 17, 1986; made headlines in 2007 when it was revealed that she was recovering from anorexia). Since 1996, Olivia has been involved with photographer/cameraman Patrick McDermott (born in 1956), who went missing after going on an overnight fishing trip on a sport fishing vessel out of San Pedro, California, in June 2005.
In 1986, Olivia and her friend Pat Farrar opened a clothing boutique called “Koala Blue.” The boutique closed in 1991. In 1992, Olivia underwent breast cancer surgery and returned to New South Wales, Australia, to recover from the disease. Sadly, that same year, Olivia's father died of liver cancer.
"My cancer scare changed my life. I'm grateful for every new, healthy day I have. It has helped me prioritize my life." Olivia Newton-John
An avid activist in both environmental issues and breast cancer awareness, Olivia is currently raising funds to build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia. She plans to take a three-week, 228 km walk along the Great Wall of China in April 2008 to raise money for a cancer charity, where she will be joined by various celebrities and cancer survivors. She was awarded the O.A.M. (Officer of the Order of Australia Medal) in 2006’s Queen's Birthday Honors List for her services to entertainment and the fight against breast cancer, as well as the Officer Of the Order of The British Empire (OBE) from Queen Elizabeth II for her services to the entertainment industry and charity in 1979.
"Family, nature and health all go together." Olivia Newton-John
Olivia, author of a children's book titled “A Pig Tale,” currently lives in California and on her ranch in Australia.
"I love that quiet time when nobody's up and the animals are all happy to see me." Olivia Newton-John
Making her stage acting debut at age 12 in a Melbourne production of "Green Pastures," Marc Connelly's 1930 play adapted from "Ol' Man Adam an' His Chillun" (1928), Olivia Newton-John found a new passion for music and formed the all-girl band Sol Four with three classmates at age 14. The group was short-lived and Newton-John subsequently went solo. As Lovely Livvy, she performed regularly on local Australian radio and television shows, including HSV-7's "The Happy Show" and "Go Show," where she met lifelong friends Pat Carroll and John Farrar. She also landed her first film, "Funny Things Happen Down Under" (1965), a delightful Aussie musical family/comedy movie directed by Joe McCormick.
In 1964, Newton-John participated in a televised talent contest hosted by 1960s Australian icon Johnny O'Keefe titled "Sing, Sing, Sing." Performing the songs "Anyone Who Had A Heart" and "Everything's Coming Up Roses," she won the contest, which included a trip to England.
Newton-John remained in England to pursue solo work. In 1966, she released the single "Till You'll Say You'll Be Mine/For Ever," with England's Decca Records, and toured England performing with Cliff Richard in 1970. She also recorded an album with the British musical group “Toomorrow” and starred in a film of the same name.
Following the disbandment of “Toomorrow,” Newton-John released her first solo album, "If Not For You" (1971), which spawned the Bob Dylan-written title track that became her first international hit (#25 Pop, #1 Adult Contemporary) and the England and Australia Top 10 hit single "Banks Of The Ohio." “Record Mirror” magazine named her “Best British Female Vocalist” for two years in a row and she subsequently made frequent appearances on Cliff Richard's weekly BBC series, "It's Cliff Richard," and co-starred with him in the British made-for-television movie, "The Case."
The album and title track, "Let Me Be There" (1973), made Newton-John a star in America. It was her first Top 10 single in the U.S. that also won her a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance Female and an Academy of Country Music award for Most Promising Female Vocalist.
The next year, Newton-John represented Britain at the Eurovision Song Contest, performing a song she disliked, "Long Live Love." She later recorded all six song candidates for the contest for her "Long Live Love" album, which was released as "If You Love Me, Let Me Know" in North America. The title track climbed to No. 5 Pop, No. 2 Country and No. 2 AC, while the next single, "I Honestly Love You", written by Jeff Barry and Peter Allen, topped at No. 1 Pop and No. 1 AC. "I Honestly Love You" also handed Newton-John two more Grammys, one for Record of the Year and another one for Best Pop Vocal Performance Female. The album itself peaked at No. 1 on both the Pop and Country Albums charts and Newton-John was named the Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year in 1974.
Now a well-established Pop and Country singer, Newton-John moved to the USA and released her next album, "Have You Never Been Mellow," in February 1974. The album rose to the top of the U.S. charts alongside its chart-topping title single. Both the title track and the follow-up single, "Please Mr. Please," also became Top 10 on three Billboard charts: the Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, and Country. Additionally, Newton-John received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her work on the song "Have You Never Been Mellow," but lost to "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian.
Album "Clearly Love" (1975) marked a decline of Newton-John's popularity on the Top 40 radio in the U.S. The singles "Something Better To Do" and "Let It Shine," which were #1 Adult Contemporary chart hits in the United States, performed comparatively poor on the Billboard Hot 100 at #13 and #30 respectively. The album only reached #12 on the U.S. charts.
In 1976, Newton-John released two albums, "Come On Over," which peaked at #2 on the Country album charts and #13 on the all-genre chart, and "Don't Stop Believin,'" which was certified gold and peaked at No. 33 Pop and No. 7 Country, thanks to the singles "Don't Stop Believin,'" "Every Face Tells A Story," and "Sam." She followed it up with "Making a Good Thing Better" (1977), which came at No. 34 Pop and No. 13 Country, thus ending Olivia's streak of six consecutive gold albums from 1974's "Let Me Be There" through 1976's "Don't Stop Believin'." She then released "Olivia Newton-John's Greatest Hits" (1977), which includes her hits released from 1971 to 1977. The album went platinum.
In 1978, Olivia co-starred with John Travolta in the feature film adaptation of the Broadway musical, "Grease." Turning 29 while filming, Newton-John, who got the role after a chance meeting with producer Allan Carr at a dinner party held by Helen Reddy in her Los Angeles home, insisted on a screen test to play Sandy, a high school senior who became the love interest to Travolta's character. Her performance is ranked #89 on “Premiere Magazine's” “100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time” and earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress – Musical/Comedy. She also received a People's Choice award for Favorite Motion Picture Actress and performed the Oscar-nominated "Hopelessly Devoted To You" at the 1979 Academy Awards.
“Grease” was the highest grossing movie of 1978 and remained popular enough that it was re-released in theaters on its 20th anniversary in 1998. The soundtrack stayed at No. 1 for 12 non-consecutive weeks and gave 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 latter two made her the second female (after Linda Ronstadt in 1977) to have two singles in the Billboard Top 5 simultaneously.
Following the success of “Grease” (1978), Newton-John was considered for the lead role in a film version of “Evita,” which eventually went to Madonna. She also turned down the lead role in “Can't Stop the Music” as well as the chance to reprise her role as Sandy in “Grease 2.” Instead of receiving those film roles, she released the pop album "Totally Hot" in November 1978, which became her first solo Top 10 (No. 7) album since 1975's "Have You Never Been Mellow." She demonstrated a more aggressive sound in the singles "A Little More Love" (No. 3 Pop, No. 94 Country and No. 4 AC), "Deeper Than The Night" (No. 11 Pop, No. 87 Country and No. 4 AC) and "Totally Hot" (No. 52 Pop). The album was certified platinum and its first single, "A Little More Love," was certified gold.
Newton-John starred as Kira in the 1980 musical/romance film "Xanadu," which earned her a Razzie Award's Worst Actress. She also performed the soundtrack to the film and the album was very successful commercially, reaching Multi-Platinum.
The following year, Newton-John enjoyed the biggest hit in her recording career, as well as the most popular single of the 1980s, with the album "Physical." Released in February 1981, the album peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard albums chart and was certified double platinum. She also earned a Grammy for Video of the Year.
In 1982, Newton-John released a greatest hits compilation, "Olivia's Greatest Hits Vol. 2," which contained two new songs: "Heart Attack" and "Tied Up." She was reunited with Travolta the following year for the romantic comedy film "Two of a Kind" (1983) and received a second Razzie's Worst Actress nomination. However, the film was salvaged by a platinum soundtrack which yielded three singles for Newton-John: "Twist Of Fate" (No. 5 Pop), "Take A Chance" (No. 3 AC), and "Livin' In Desperate Times" (No. 31 Pop).
"Soul Kiss," Newton-John's next album, was released in 1985. Although it was not nearly as commercially successful as her previous efforts and barely made the Top 30 on the Billboard 200, it was certified Gold in both the U.S. and Australia and also charted at #5 in Japan. Meanwhile, the album's title song reached #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, marking her last U.S. Top 40 Pop single to date in the U.S., and the follow-up single, "Toughen Up," failed to chart entirely except for a minor chart placement in Australia.
Newton-John subsequently released the albums "The Rumour" (1988) and "Warm And Tender" (1989). She also appeared in Michael Jackson's "Liberian Girl" music video in 1989.
The early 1990s saw Newton-John make her American TV acting debut with the NBC movie "A Mom for Christmas." In 1991, she filed for bankruptcy for her clothing chain Koala Blue before being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. She later underwent a partial mastectomy and reconstruction of her breast.
In 1992, she produced a six-minute video of celebrities urging President Bush to attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June. Two years later, she starred in the CBS TV-movie "A Christmas Romance," alongside real-life daughter Chloe who played her on-screen daughter. She also returned to the music studio and released the album “Gaia” in 1994. Entirely written by herself (she also co-produced), the album yielded two singles, "No Matter What You Do," which was an Australian Top 40 hit, and "Don't Cut Me Down." Hailed by the “All Music Guide” as "the most honest and inviting album of her career," the album, in which her passion for environmental and conservation issues also served as a major influence, is one of the most critically acclaimed of her career and is a firm favorite among fans. Newton-John later opened up a Retreat and Spa in Byron Bay, Australia, called Gaia.
After an absence from the U.S. Country charts for almost twenty years, Newton-John returned with the album "Back with a Heart" (1998). It featured the single "I Honestly Love You," a re-recording of her 1974 No. 1 featuring vocals by Babyface. The album track, “Love Is A Gift,” won a 1999 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Song after being featured on the long-running CBS daytime series, “As The World Turns.”
In 1999, Newton-John was featured alongside John Farnham and Anthony Warlow in the live album "Highlights from The Main Event," which consisted of music from the 1998 Australian concert series The Main Event. It was later re-released in 2001.
Newton-John released a live album titled "One Woman's Live Journey" (2000), a recording of her concert at the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on August 26 and 27, 1999, as well as released two greatest hits compilations, "Magic: The Very Best of Olivia Newton-John" (2001), which include all 15 of her Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, "The Grease Megamix," and "The Definitive Collection," which featured 22 of her all time hits. She also released "'Tis The Season (with Vince Gill)" (2000) and "The Christmas Collection" (2001).
As an actress, Newton-John returned to feature films with Beau Bridges and Bonnie Bedelia in "Sordid Lives" (2000), for which she also wrote and performed one original song and sang five others on the soundtrack. She also performed "Dare to Dream" with John Farnham during the Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony.
"Nothing I have done professionally will top the feeling I got when singing with John Farnham at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney." Olivia Newton-John
In 2002, Newton-John released "2," a duet album in which she sang duets with Richard Marx and Michael McDonald. She has since released the albums "Indigo: Women Of Song" (2004), "Stronger Than Before" (2005), "Grace And Gratitude" (2006), "Christmas Wish" (2007) and "Olivia's Live Hits" (2008). Meanwhile, she appeared in a TV commercial for Planet Ark (Australia; 2002) and print ads for Kellogg's Smart Start cereal (2004).
"I don't know what my path is yet. I'm just walking on it." Olivia Newton-John
ARIA: Lifetime Achievement, 2002
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Original Song, "As the World Turns," 1999
Grammy: Video of the Year, "Olivia Newton-John: Let's Get Physical," 1983
People's Choice: Favorite Motion Picture Actress, 1979
Grammy: Record of The Year, "I Honestly Love You," 1974
Grammy: Best Pop Vocal Performance Female, "I Honestly Love You," 1974
Country Music Association: Female Vocalist of the Year, 1974
Grammy: Best Country Performance Female, "Let Me Be There," 1973
Academy of Country Music: Most Promising Female Vocalist, 1973