Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John (Sept. 26, 1948 — Aug. 8, 2022) was an Australian singer, actress, and entrepreneur with a career in entertainment dating back to the late 1960s. During the mid-1970s, she achieved fame in the Northern Hemisphere with a series of country-pop albums and singles.

In 1978, she conquered the big-screen in the iconic role of Sandy opposite John Travolta in Grease. During the early 1980s, Olivia Newton-John sweated into the video age with the chart-topping aerobics anthem “Physical.”

Olivia Newton-John was born September 26, 1948, in Cambridge, UK, to a Welsh father and German mother. Her maternal grandfather was Nobel Prize-winning German physicist Max Born (1882–1970). Olivia’s older sister Rona (1941–2013) was married for five years to Grease co-star Jeff Conway. When Olivia was six, the family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia.

Newton-John first performed at coffee shops with the girl group Sol Four, formed with three of her classmates. As a teenager, she made appearances on local television programs, including The Happy Show and The Go!! Show, where she met Strangers guitarist John Farrar, who would later become her producer and songwriter.

In 1965, she appeared in the musical film Funny Things Happen Down Under and won a talent contest on the program Sing, Sing, Sing performing Dionne Warwick‘s then-recent hit “Anyone Who Had a Heart.” Her prize was a trip to the UK, where she cut her first single, “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine,” for Decca in 1966.

In London, she was soon joined by her Melbourne friend and fellow singer Pat Carroll. The two toured Europe as Pat and Olivia until Carroll’s visa expired. (Carroll, who soon married Farrar, later partnered with Newton-John on the fashion product line Koala Blue.)

In 1970, Newton-John cut two singles as part of the pop-vocal quartet Toomorrow, assembled by US music mogul Don Kirshner. They starred in a namesake sci-fi musical film, accompanied with a soundtrack on RCA Victor.

Newton-John released her debut album, If Not for You, in November 1971. It features 12 covers of contemporary pop and country songs, including compositions by Bread (“If”), Lesley Duncan (“Love Song” and “Lullaby”), Bob Dylan (“If Not for You”), Gordon Lightfoot (“If You Could Read My Mind”) and Tom Rush’s much-covered “No Regrets,” later taken to the UK top 10 by the Walker Brothers and Midge Ure.

As with her next four albums, If Not for You was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and co-produced by John Farrar and Olivia’s then-boyfriend, erstwhile Shadows guitarist Bruce Welch. Farrar and Welch were active in the trio Marvin, Welch & Farrar with fellow-Shadow Hank Marvin. Other players on If Not for You include Shadows drummer Brian Bennett, ex-Manfred Mann bassist Dave Richmond, and KPM library keyboardist/arranger Alan Hawkshaw.

If Not for You spawned two singles: the title-track and “Love Song,” which concurrently appeared on albums by Duncan (Sing Children Sing) and Elton John (Tumbleweed Connection). In select markets, “Love Song” appeared on the b-side of “Banks of the Ohio,” a traditional arranged by Farrar and Welch. In Australia, the album was released on Festival-subsidiary Interfusion. Abroad, it was issued on PYE (UK), Uni (US), EMI (Japan), and Polydor (most other markets). To support this album, Newton-John toured with Cliff Richard and appeared on his BBC1 music program It’s Cliff Richard.

Newton-John’s second album, Olivia, appeared in 1972. The 14-track collection includes covers of songs by Gerry Rafferty (“Mary Skeffington“), George Harrison (“Behind That Locked Door,” “What Is Life”), Paul Simon (“Why Don’t You Write Me”), Jacques Brel (“If We Only Have Love”), David Gates (“Everything I Own”), and Don McLean (“Winterwood”). Her cover of Johnny Burnette’s “Just a Little Too Much” was issued as a single.

Olivia herself contributed “Changes,” while Farrar wrote “My Old Man’s Got a Gun” and co-authored “I’m a Small and Lonely Light” (with Peter Best). “Living in Harmony” is an early composition by the musical team of Alan Tarney and Trevor Spencer, who provide rhythmic backing along with their erstwhile James Taylor Move colleague, guitarist Kevin Peek (later of the neo-classical combo Sky). The keyboards on this album are played by Kiwi jazz musician Dave MacRae (Matching Mole, Nucleus, Pacific Eardrum, The Mike Gibbs Band). Olivia was not issued in the US.


  • If Not for You (1971)
  • Olivia (1972)
  • Let Me Be There (1973)
  • Long Live Love (1974)
  • If You Love Me, Let Me Know (1974)
  • First Impressions (1974)
  • Have You Never Been Mellow (1975)
  • Clearly Love (1975)
  • Come on Over (1976)
  • Don’t Stop Believin’ (1976)
  • Making a Good Thing Better (1977)
  • Totally Hot (1978)
  • Physical (1981)
  • Soul Kiss (1985)
  • The Rumour (1988)
  • Warm and Tender (1989)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *