Olivia Newton-John, OBE was born in Cambridge, England. She is the granddaughter of Max Born, a German Nobel prize-winning physicist who fled from 1930’s Germany with his wife in order to avoid persecution due to his Jewish heritage.
Her father, Brin Newton-John, was originally from Wales, Great Britain. Brin was the MI5 Officer who took Rudolf Hess into custody when he parachuted into Scotland in May 1941. He was attached to the Enigma machine project at Bletchley Park. After the war, he became a professor of German at the UNSW annex at Tighes Hill.
In 1954, at the age of five, Olivia, her parents, Brin and Irene Newton-John, and her older siblings, Hugh and Rona, relocated to Melbourne, Australia. Her father had taken a job at Melbourne University as the Dean of Ormond College. Her parents divorced when Olivia was eleven years old.
Olivia, on her visits to her father, would sing at Oliver’s Unicorn Restaurant, upstairs in Newcastles Hunter St. Brin. A number of his circle of friends, both academic and non-academic, would be her main audience.
By the age of fifteen, Newton-John had formed an all-girl band called Sol Four and soon was a regular on local television and radio shows in Australia. She entered a talent contest on the television program, Sing, Sing, Sing, and performed 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.
Newton-John returned to live in England with her mother, when she was 16 years old and, working as a duo with her friend Pat Carroll (who subsequently married Newton-John’s producer, John Farrar), Newton-John cut her first single, “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine” backed with “For Ever” for Decca Records in England in 1966.
Newton-John’s first album was titled Toomorrow , which was also the name of her musical group at the time. They were the brainchild of American producer Don Kirshner, creator of The Monkees. The group also starred in the movie Toomorrow.
Although the band and film were commercially unsuccessful, Newton-John’s solo career started to take off with her first solo album titled Olivia Newton-John, which was released in the United Kingdom on Pye Records. Newton-John quickly became one of Britain’s most popular singers. She was voted “Best British Female Vocalist” two years in a row by the magazine Record Mirror. She received an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth II in 1979.
In 1968 Newton-John met the Shadows’ guitarist, Bruce Welch, to whom she became engaged until 1972. They made appearances on Cliff Richard’s weekly show, It's Cliff Richard and she starred with him in the tele-film, The Case.
Newton-John’s first international hit was a song written by Bob Dylan called “If Not For You”, which was produced by, her then fiance Bruce Welch and John Farrar. She represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 and came in at fourth place. Later in the year, the single, “I Honestly Love You” was released in the United States and became her first single to chart at number one across the Atlantic.
In 1975, encouraged by expatriate Australian singer Helen Reddy, Newton-John left England and moved to the United States, where she became a hugely popular singer in both country and popular music. She had five number one hits, including the song, Physical, which stayed at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for ten weeks. She has received four Grammys in her career.
Newton-John’s film breakthrough came when she was offered the female lead in Grease (1978), after a chance meeting with producer Allan Carr at a party at Helen Reddy’s house in Los Angeles. John Travolta, the male lead in the movie had wanted Newton-John to be his co-star in the film and had let his wishes be known to Carr and director Randal Kleiser before either of them met Newton-John.
The film was the biggest box office hit of the year and remained popular enough that it was re-released in theaters in the United States on its 20th anniversary. Two songs from the movie soundtrack, “You’re the One That I Want” and “Summer Nights”, went to Number One on US and international charts and stood at the Number One position for nine and seven weeks respectively on the UK charts. Newton-John’s solo number, “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, was also a hit.
To follow this success, Newton-John released the album, Totally Hot, in 1979 with extensive promotion. The release was another critical and commercial success, and spawned the smash hit, “A Little More Love”, Top Ten single “Deeper Than the Night”, and the Top 40 title track, “Totally Hot”. A more ambitious album than some of Newton-John’s earlier releases, the record included both sexy up-tempo numbers (including a spirited remake of the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’”), alongside characteristically beautiful ballads. With this, Newton-John further established herself as one of the most versatile and appealing female pop vocalists of her generation. The album also cemented Newton-John’s transformation into a sex symbol.
In 1980, she took the lead with Gene Kelly in the cult film, Xanadu. While at the time, the movie was considered a critical and commercial failure, over the years, it has gained a considerable pop-culture following. The Xanadu soundtrack had several commercially successful singles. Its production was a collaborative effort with Electric Light Orchestra.
Newton-John has done a body of television work as well. She starred in the television movies, A Mom for Christmas and A Christmas Romance. She has also guest-starred in sitcoms (mostly as herself) such as Murphy Brown, Bette, and Ned and Stacey and the made for TV film, The Wilde Girls, which featured her daughter, Chloe Rose Lattanzi, and Swoosie Kurtz. In 1981, Newton-John received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of her outstanding career.
In 1983, Newton-John and longtime friend Pat Farrar founded Koala Blue, a chain of women’s clothing boutiques, with the designs of the apparel based on the unique style and colors of Australia. The chain was successful for some time but eventually went out of business. However, Newton-John and Farrar have licensed the brand name for a line of Australian produced wines, confectionery and other items.
In 1992 Newton-John underwent breast-cancer surgery, from which she recovered. She now actively promotes public awareness of the importance of early detection of the disease. In October of 2005, she released Stronger than Before, an album promoting breast cancer awareness, sold exclusively through Hallmark Gold Crown® Stores.
In 1998 Newton-John, John Farnham and Anthony Warlow formed a powerful trio on the “Main Event” tour which traveled to all major Australian capital cities, spawned a Top Ten CD which won an ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) Award for Highest Selling Australian CD. In 2002, Newton-John was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.
She sang the duet, “Dare to Dream”, with John Farnham at the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She was also an Olympic torch bearer, running the route around the Sydney Opera House.
In 2002, Newton-John released a duets album called 2 (featuring singers, such as Darren Hayes, Tina Arena, Jimmy Little and Billy Thorpe as well as heartfelt duet-tributes with Peter Allen and Johnny O’Keefe). The album was in the Top Five in Australia, followed by a successful Australian tour.
The 2004 release of Indigo: Women of Song, a tribute album covering songs by the Carpenters, Minnie Ripperton, Doris Day, Nina Simone, Joan Baez, and many others, was dedicated to her mother, Irene; the record went gold in Australia.
Oliva Newton-John’s Grace and Gratitude (2010) is inspired by her belief that music has the power to heal by calming our minds, lifting our spirits and connecting to our hearts. Named for Olivia’s appreciation of the gift of life, Grace and Gratitude contains over 20 tracks intended for relaxation and healing. As an eighteen-year breast cancer “thriver,” Olivia has learned the importance of physical and emotional health, and especially the power of music. Research has shown that music can lower stress hormones, slow down brain waves and actually boost the body’s own healing process.
Co-written by the album’s producer, Amy Sky, the lyrics acknowledge a variety of belief systems including, Tibetan chants, prayers from Judaism and Islam, and a poem from St. Francis of Assisi. Together, Olivia and Amy took the chakras of the body as the basis for each song on the CD. Each chakra is connected to a sacred truth that reflects your psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being.
“Music connects with the spirit and the heart and it was my realization of this that inspired me to create this CD,” says Olivia Newton-John. “It is important to calm your mind and connect with your heart to find harmony and balance. Music always helped me in my healing and now it is my hope that it inspires healing in others.”
Pop icon, Olivia Newton-John, celebrates legendary women singers. Take a moment to reflect with Olivia as she honors and recalls how her life was inspired by the songs and artists of Portraits. This CD was born out of love and respect for these singers and their songs - it pays tribute to some of the women who inspired, delighted and influenced me in the formative years of my career, or touched my life in some way. I have wanted to record this CD for many years. In five magical days, at Indigo Recording Studios, in the remote hills of Malibu, I recorded this CD with Phil Ramone at the helm. It fell into place quickly - like it was meant to be. Each song has a distinct place and wonderful memory attached to it and I am forever grateful to the artists, the writers, the musicians and the producers for the wonderful feast of music that helped form my musical tastes and touched my heart.
When your first single from Grease, the biggest movie musical of all time, is the chart-topping “You’re the One That I Want,” and it becomes the best-selling duet in pop music history - that’s a tough act to follow. Almost 35 years later, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John have combined their iconic voices for This Christmas (2012), a newly recorded album featuring Christmas favorites with guest artists such as Barbara Streisand, Tony Bennett, and James Taylor! Travolta and Newton-John will donate the artist proceeds from the album equally to their respective charities, the Jett Travolta Foundation and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia.