Olivia Newton-John AO, OBE (born 26 September 1948 [just turned 61 today, happy birthday] in Cambridge, United Kingdom) is a British-born, Australian singer and actor. She is a four-time Grammy award winner who has amassed five No. 1 and ten other Top Ten Hot 100 singles and two No. 1 Billboard 200 albums. The RIAA has certified gold 11 of her singles (including two platinum) and 14 of her albums (including two platinum and four double platinum). She co-starred with John Travolta in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical, Grease, which became the highest grossing movie musical in Hollywood history. She is an avid activist for both environmental issues and breast cancer awareness. Born to a Welsh-born father, Brinley ("Bryn") Newton-John, and a German-born mother, Irene Born (who was the eldest child of the Nobel prize winning atomic physicist Max Born). Newton-John's family emigrated in 1954 to Melbourne, Australia, where her father worked as a Professor of German and became the Master of Ormond College at theUniversity of Melbourne.
Newton-John released her first solo album, 'If Not For You', in 1971. The title track, written by Bob Dylan, was her first international hit (No. 25 Pop, No. 1 Adult Contemporary [hereafter AC]). (If Not For You was originally recorded by Beatle George Harrison on his triple album All Things Must Pass 1970.) Her follow-up, "Banks of the Ohio," was a Top 10 hit in England and Australia, but faltered in the U.S. (No. 94 Pop, No. 34 AC). She was voted Best British Female Vocalist two years in a row by the magazine Record Mirror. In the United States, Newton-John's career foundered after If Not For You until the release of "Let Me Be There" in 1973. The song reached the American Top 10 on the Pop (No. 6), Country (No. 7), and AC (No. 3) charts and earned her a Grammy for Best Country Female and an Academy of Country Music award for Most Promising Female Vocalist. The song also propelled the album 'Let Me Be There' to No. 1 on the Country Albums chart for two weeks.
The next single, "I Honestly Love You," became Newton-John's signature song. Written by Jeff Barry and Peter Allen , the ballad became her first No. 1 Pop (two weeks) and second No. 1 AC (three weeks) hit (also No. 6 Country) and earned Newton-John two more Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Female. The success of both singles helped the album reach No. 1 on both the Pop (one week) and Country (eight weeks) Albums charts.
Encouraged by expatriate Australian singer Helen Reddy, Newton-John left England and moved to the United States. Newton-John topped the Pop (one week) and Country (six weeks) Albums charts with her next album, 'Have You Never Been Mellow'. The album generated two singles – the title track (No. 1 Pop, No. 3 Country, No. 1 AC) and "Please Mr. Please" (No. 3 Pop, No. 5 Country, No. 1 AC). Newton-John's pop career cooled with the release of her next album, Clearly Love. Her streak of five consecutive gold Top 10 singles ended when the album's first single, "Something Better To Do," stopped at No. 13 (also No. 19 Country and No. 1 AC). Although her albums still achieved gold status, she did not return to the Top 10 on the Hot 100 or Pop Albums charts again until 1978.
The release of the film was preceded one month by the telecast of Newton-John's second television special, Olivia. Grease became the biggest box-office hit of 1978 and remained popular enough that it was re-released in theaters on its 20th anniversary in 1998. The soundtrack spent 12 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 and yielded 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 former two songs were written by Newton-John's long-time producer, John Farrar, specifically for the film. Newton-John became the second female (after Linda Ronstadt in 1977) to have two singles – "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Summer Nights" – in the Billboard Top 5 simultaneously. Newton-John's performance earned her a People's Choice award for Favorite Motion Picture Actress. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Musical and performed the Oscar-nominated "Hopelessly Devoted To You" at the 1979 Academy Awards. To this day, the soundtrack still sells several thousand copies per week and often appears on Billboard's Soundtracks chart.
"Magic" was Newton-John's biggest Pop hit to that point (four weeks at No. 1) and still ranks as the biggest AC hit of her career (five weeks at No. 1). The film has since become a cult classic and the basis for a well-reviewed, Tony-nominated Broadway show that ran for more than 500 performances in 2007–2008.
In 1981, Newton-John released her most successful studio album, the double platinum 'Physical'. The title track, written by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick, spent ten weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, matching the record of most weeks at No. 1 held by Debby Boone's 'You Light Up My Life'. The single was certified platinum and it ultimately ranked as the biggest song of the decade. (In 2008, Billboard ranked the song No. 6 among all songs that charted in the 50-year history of the Hot 100.) The song even earned Newton-John her only placement ever on the R&B Singles (No. 28) and Albums (No. 32) chart. The Physical album spawned two more singles, Make a Move on Me (No. 5 Pop, No. 6 AC) and Landslide (No. 52 Pop).
Newton-John became a pioneer in the nascent music video industry by recording a video album for 'Physical' featuring videos of all the album's tracks and three of her older hits. The video album earned her a fourth Grammy and was aired as an ABC prime time special, 'Let's Get Physical', becoming a Top 10 Nielsen hit. The success of Physical led to an international tour and the release of her second hits collection, the double platinum Olivia's 'Greatest Hits Vol. 2' (No. 16 Pop), which yielded two more Top 40 singles: "Heart Attack" (No. 3 Pop) and "Tied Up" (No. 38 Pop). The tour was filmed for her Olivia In Concert television special which premiered on HBO in January 1983. The special was subsequently released to video earning Newton-John another Grammy nomination. [wikipedia]