Spotlight On Olivia Newton John
Photos by Glenda S. Paradee
Olivia Newton-John performed at the Talking Stick Resort Ballroom in Scottsdale, Arizona on October 8, 2017. She sang many of her hits. Her voice was beautiful. Backup vocalists were great too as well as her band.
Newton-John took the crowd back to “Xanadu,” and performing the ballad “Suddenly” with her backup singer.
Reaching back to her roots, Newton-John showcased early hits that were fixtures on both the country and pop charts, ones that paved the way for future crossover acts. The country-pop medley — for which she joked, “If you know the words and want to sing along... don’t, because you might mess us up” — also included “Have You Never Been Mellow,” plus “Please Mr. Please” and “Let Me Be There.”
Newton-John then did “Physical”. She said the song was banned back in the day. Compared to what’s on the radio today, she quipped, “Physical” sounds like a “lullaby.”
A passionate animal-rights activist and environmentalist, Newton-John slowed it down for 1981′s “The Promise (The Dolphin Song),” from “Physical,” and “Don’t Cut Me Down,” which reflected her feelings for old growth forests threatened by man. The latter track — which she acknowledged could also be about people — appeared on 1994′s “Gaia: One Woman’s Journey,” an album she wrote following her 1992 breast cancer diagnosis. Twenty-five years later, Newton-John is cancer-free and remains a tireless advocate for early detection. In 2012, her cancer and wellness center opened in Australia, with a research institute following in 2014.
Newton-John dipped into the Latin-fueled “Not Gonna Give In To It.” She performed the defiant number, her self-described anthem, with a visible sense of triumph over her early-’90s struggle, even engaging in some dance choreography.
Donning black leather jackets, Newton-John and her backup singer, standing in for John Travolta, performed a lively rendition of “You’re the One That I Want.”
The “Grease” torch classic “Hopelessly Devoted to You” followed, with the singer sounding straight out of 1978. She then asked the audience to participate with the “boys” taking on the “girls” in the sing-a-long classic “Summer Nights.”
Returning to the stage for her encores, Newton-John performed the song Co-written with Amy Sky, the song — which also appears on the 2016 Newton-John/Sky/Beth Nielsen Chapman “healing” album, “Liv On” — serves as another anthem for the singer-songwriter. Summing up her appreciation for surviving, and thriving beyond, her struggles through the years, she sings “Thank you for life... Thank you for everything... I stand here in grace and gratitude... And I thank you.”
Closing the night with one of her five Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 singles, Newton-John said she never tires of performing the Grammy-winning “I Honestly Love You.” Dedicating the tender ballad to the crowd. Newton-John came out for a 3rd standing ovation and sang "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," which was accompanied by a piano. It was the cherry on top of a wonderful concert.
More on Olivia: Olivia Newton-John’s appeal seems to be timeless. With a career spanning more than five decades she is still a vibrant, creative individual adored by fans around the globe. Born in Cambridge, England in 1948, the youngest child of Professor Brin Newton-John and Irene, daughter of Nobel Prize winning physicist, Max Born, Olivia moved to Melbourne, Australia with her family when she was five. Her first big break was winning a talent contest on the popular TV show, “Sing, Sing, Sing,” which earned Olivia a trip to London. By the age of fifteen she had formed an all-girl group called Sol Four and, in 1963, Olivia was appearing on local daytime TV shows and weekly pop music programs in Australia. When she eventually took her prize-winning trip to London, she teamed up with her friend from Melbourne, Pat Carroll (now Farrar), to create a double act, “Pat & Olivia,” and the duo toured army bases and clubs throughout the UK and Europe. Olivia cut her first single for Decca Records in 1966, a version of Jackie DeShannon’s "Till You Say You’ll Be Mine,” and in 1971, she recorded a cover of Bob Dylan’s "If Not For You," co-produced by Bruce Welch and fellow Aussie and friend, John Farrar, whom she continues to collaborate with today.
Olivia’s U.S. album debut, "Let Me Be There," produced her first top ten single of the same name, with Olivia being honored by the Academy Of Country Music as Most Promising Female Vocalist and a Grammy Award as Best Country Vocalist. This proved to be only the beginning of a very exciting career. With more than 100 million albums sold, Olivia’s successes include four Grammy Awards, numerous Country Music, American Music and Peoples Choice Awards, ten #1 hits including “Physical,” which topped the charts for ten consecutive weeks, and over 15 top 10 singles. In November 2015, Billboard Magazine listed “Physical” at #8 on their Top 100 Songs Of All Time list and in 2010 listed it as “The Sexiest Song of All Time.” In addition, in 2015 Olivia was ranked #20 on Billboard’s “Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Artists.”
In 1978, her co-starring role with John Travolta in “Grease” catapulted Olivia into super-stardom. This film’s best-selling soundtrack featured the duets "You’re The One That I Want" and "Summer Nights," with Travolta, as well as her mega-hit, "Hopelessly Devoted To You." To date “Grease” remains the most successful movie musical in history. Her other feature film credits include “Funny Things Happen Down Under,” “Toomorrow,” “Xanadu,” “Two Of A Kind,” “It’s My Party,” “Sordid Lives,” “Score: A Hockey Musical,” and “A Few Best Men.”
Throughout her career, the much-loved star, who danced with Gene Kelly in “Xanadu,” hosted the popular internationally syndicated “Wild Life” television show, was bestowed an O.B.E. (Order Of The British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth in 1979, has held many humanitarian causes close to her heart, particularly since the birth of her daughter Chloe in 1986. Olivia was named the first Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Environment Programme and in 1991, served as the national spokesperson for the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC), which was founded after the tragic death of Chloe’s best friend from a rare childhood cancer. Her devotion and shared commitment to CHEC’s (now Healthy Child, Healthy World) mission and goals enabled the organization to receive worldwide attention and support. (For more information visit www.HealthyChild.org).
Her charmed life has not been without its share of upset. In the 90’s, Olivia overcame her own battle with breast cancer, which inspired her self-penned and produced album, “Gaia,” her most personal album reflecting upon her experiences with cancer. She used these experiences to gain greater self-awareness and became a positive inspiration to millions of people battling cancer. As a breast cancer “thriver”, Olivia has become increasingly well known and respected for talking openly about her battle with breast cancer and for promoting public awareness of the importance of early detection. Her personal triumph over cancer led her to announce her partnership with Austin Health and the creation of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre (ONJCWC) on the Austin Campus in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. In April 2008, Olivia led a team of fellow cancer survivors, celebrities and Olympians on a trek along the Great Wall of China and raised more than $2 million to find a new way to treat cancer and build the ONJCWC. After continuing the fundraising efforts and helping to raise nearly $200 million, the ONJCWC, opened in June 2012, and provides a comprehensive range of services and facilities for cancer treatment, education, training and research including a wellness center for the mind, body and spirit (www.oliviaappeal.com). In 2014, Olivia was thrilled when the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute opened on the grounds of the ONJCWC. The strategic co-location of research laboratories and research-training within a clinical environment enables clinicians and researchers to work together to integrate clinical medicine with basic and translational cancer research for the ultimate benefit of cancer patients.
Continuing her efforts to create breast health and cancer awareness, Olivia launched the Liv Aid ®, a breast self-examination aid that assists women to exercise breast self-exams correctly (www.Liv.com). Olivia credits her own breast self-exam as the first step to her eventual diagnosis of breast cancer. Now, she has become a passionate advocate in creating awareness for early detection and, encouraging women to take a more active role in their breast health.
Olivia continues to give back to the community generously and has been acknowledged many times by charitable and environmental organizations for her ongoing efforts, among them: the American Red Cross, the Environmental Media Association, the Women’s Guild of Cedar’s Sinai Medical Center, and the Rainforest Alliance and Concept Cure. In 1992 she created National Tree Day, which is responsible for planting more than 10 million trees in Australia. Most recently she co-founded One Tree, One Child, an international school initiative with the goal of having every child under the age of ten plant at least one tree.
In the new millennium, her international recognition has continued to grow. She was invited by the Vatican on behalf of Pope John Paul II to perform at the “Jubilee Celebration for the Sick and Healthcare Workers” and, she was thrilled to perform at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics to an estimated global viewing audience of four billion people. Adding to this Olympic experience is what Olivia feels is one of her most memorable moments - the honor of carrying the Olympic Torch during the Olympic Torch Relay.
In 1983, as an entrepreneur with a desire to bring “everything Australian” to the world, she opened her first store, Koala Blue, with her friend and former singing partner, Pat Farrar. Her passion for Australia was proven once again when Olivia and Pat launched their distinctly Australian wines under the iconic homegrown Koala Blue brand, to proudly bring the “taste of Australia” to the rest of the world in 2002. That year Olivia was also inducted into the prestigious Australian Music Hall Of Fame at the 16th Annual Aria Awards. Then, in 2006 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by friend John Travolta at the G’Day L.A. Gala.
In February 2005, along with her business partners Gregg Cave, Warwick Evans and Ruth Kalnin, Olivia opened the Gaia Retreat & Spa in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, as an ideal place to renew, refresh and restore. The retreat has received numerous awards since it has opened including: the Conde Nast Traveller 2008 Readers’ Spa Award Winner for the “Favourite Overseas Hotel Spa: Australasia & South Pacific.” In January 2010, TripAdvisor named Gaia #3 of the “Top 10 Celebrity-Owned Hotels in the World,” putting Olivia in the company of fellow hotel owners, Robert Redford, Bono and Robert DeNiro among others. In 2011 Gaia also received the “Best Health Retreat” Award at the Gourmet Traveller Travel Awards, as well as TripAdvisor’s “Traveller’s Choice Award for Best Relaxation/Spa Hotels in South Pacific,” and placed #3 in the World for “Best Relaxation/Spa Hotels.” And, for two consecutive years (2013 and 2014) the World Travel Awards honored Gaia as “Australia’s Leading Spa Resort” and “Australia’s Leading Boutique Hotel.” In 2014, Gaia also became a member of Virtuoso, the travel industry’s leading luxury network spanning over 26 countries and 9,000 travel advisors. 2014 also saw the launch of Gaia’s elite and acclaimed skin care line, “Retreatment.” In 2015, Gaia Retreat & Spa celebrated its 10th anniversary and was also awarded “World’s Best Day Spa” and “Oceania’s Best Day Spa” by the World Spa Awards.
Olivia’s 2007 holiday recording, “Christmas Wish” features both new and classic holiday favorites and duets with such Grammy winners as Barry Manilow, Michael McDonald, David Foster and Jon Secada, to name a few, and was called one of the “Best Holiday CDs of 2007” by USA Today. That year she also premiered her first concert special for Public Television – “Olivia Newton-John: Live From Sydney!” filmed at the historic Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony. A two-hour DVD release of this stunning performance, featuring additional concert footage and Olivia’s personal tour of some of her favorite spots in Sydney, was released by Capitol / EMI in January 2008 and subsequently became a favorite concert special on PBS. In 2008, Olivia began co-hosting and co-producing the PBS series, “Healing Quest” and, she reprised her film role of Bitsy Mae Harling from “Sordid Lives” in the LOGO series to rave reviews.
In 2008, Olivia married “Amazon John” Easterling and, together they are spreading the word about the importance of preserving the Rainforest and, the health values found in the botanicals of the Amazon. They currently serve as spokespersons for the renowned wellness company TriVita and are working closely with the ACEER Organization (Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research) to help the indigenous people of the Amazon gain ownership and title to their land. In September 2009, they also joined forces with Prince Charles’ The Prince’s Rainforest Project to further stress the global importance of preserving the Rainforest.
In 2010, Olivia also appeared as herself in two episodes of the hit series, “Glee,” adding another Top 100 hit to her credits with a new version of “Physical” sung with Jane Lynch. In October 2010 Olivia starred in the breast cancer docudrama “1 A Minute” and, the Canadian film “Score: A Hockey Musical.” Her 2012 film, “A Few Best Men,” garnered her some of the best reviews of her film career. The soundtrack to the film features dance remixes of classic hits such as “Sugar Sugar” and “Daydream Believer” recorded by Olivia and remixed by some of the hottest club remixers in the world. In addition the CD reunites Olivia with her longtime producer and songwriter, John Farrar, on the single, “Weightless.”
Also in 2010, Olivia was honored with the prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia from Governor General Quentin Bryce. In addition to starring in films and on television and writing books and music, Olivia continues to spend time in the recording studio. Her healing CD, “Grace and Gratitude: Renewed” (2010), debuted at #2 on the Billboard Magazine New Age chart. In addition, Billboard celebrated Olivia’s new music by saying, “Newton-John is soulfully committed to every word she sings, and fans will be taken by the plush arrangements, melodic warmth, and of course, the artist’s regal vocals.”
Olivia released her second book, LivWise: Easy Recipes For A Healthy, Happy Life (Murdoch Books) in Australia in 2011. (Her first book, A Pig Tale, an environmentally-themed story written for children, was released in 1993.) In LivWise, Olivia explains her belief in the importance of eating a healthy diet in order to maintain wellness and balance and, Olivia’s proceeds from the sale of the book benefit the ONJCWC. In addition in 2012, she reunited with John Travolta to release “This Christmas,” a holiday CD collection that was also a fundraiser for both the ONJCWC and The Jett Travolta Foundation. In 2012, Olivia was bestowed the honor of being named one of Australia’s “National Living Treasures” by the National Trust of Australia. This was followed by another honor in 2013 when Olivia was bestowed her owns stamp as part of the “Australia Post Legends” stamp series.
In April 2014, Olivia began her residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas with “Summer Nights,” a musical journey through her career in movies and music. To coincide with the show, she released “Hotel Sessions” an EP collection of songs recorded in hotel rooms in Melbourne over a ten-year period with her nephew Brett Goldsmith. The CD is dedicated to her late sister Rona Newton-John, who was always supportive of Olivia and Brett working together. Due to the popularity of the Las Vegas show, Olivia’s residency has been extended through January 2016 and, a 2-CD set, “Summer Nights – Live in Las Vegas” was released earlier this year.
For Newton-John, 2015 has proven to be a chart topping and award-winning year for the 67-year-old. She recently topped the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart with the #1 hit, “You Have to Believe,” with her daughter Chloe. In April of 2015 Olivia toured arenas in Australia with fellow Aussie icon, John Farnham, with the aptly titled show, “Two Strong Hearts.” A CD of highlights form this sold-out debuted at #1 on the Aria Album charts, where it remained in the top spot for three weeks. The CD went on to receive an Aria Award nomination and, the live DVD held the #1 spot on the Aria DVD chart for 10 weeks.
Olivia’s appeal seems to be timeless. She is currently selling out her acclaimed “Summer Nights” concert residency at Flamingo Las Vegas through December 2016 and, is thrilled that a portion of every ticket sold to her Flamingo shows benefits the Wellness Programs at the ONJCWRC.
Still extremely busy in the recording studio, Olivia recently released two projects back to back. The first, “LIV ON,” a collaborative, inspiring new CD with friends Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky is intended for those who wish to transcend loss while walking a journey toward new-found meaning and hope, was released in October 2016. In addition, Olivia reunited with John Farnham for the holiday release, “Friends for Christmas,” which was released November 11, 2016.
With her current and ongoing projects and philanthropic endeavors, Olivia’s worldwide popularity is as strong as ever! For more information visit OliviaNewton-John.com or follow her on Twitter @OliviaNJ or Instagram @TheRealONJ.
Thanks For The Music Olivia
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