Olivia Newton-John Part Two
Yesterday “I did Part One, so this is Olivia Newton-John Part Two, please enjoy.
Newton-John released her first solo album, If Not for You (US No. 158 Pop), in 1971. The title track, written by Bob Dylan and previously recorded by former Beatle George Harrison for his 1970 album All Things Must Pass, was her first international hit (US No. 25 Pop, No. 1 Adult Contemporary (“ AC“). Her follow-up single, “Banks of the Ohio“, was a top 10 hit in the UK and Australia.She was voted Best British Female Vocalist two years in a row by the magazine Record Mirror. She made frequent appearances on Cliff Richard‘s weekly show, It‘s Cliff Richard, and starred with him in the telefilm The Case.
In the United States, Newton-John‘s career foundered after If Not for You. Subsequent singles including “Banks of the Ohio“ (No. 94 Pop, No. 34 AC) and remakes of George Harrison‘s “What Is Life“ (No. 34 AC) and John Denver‘s “Take MeHome, Country Roads“ (No. 119 Pop) made minimal chart impact 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 PromisingFemale Vocalist.
In 1974, Newton-John represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Long Live Love“. The song was chosen for Newton-John by the British public out of six possible entries. (Newton-John later admitted that she disliked the song.) Newton-John finished fourth at the contest held in Brighton behind ABBA‘s winning Swedish entry, “Waterloo“. All six Eurovision contest song candidates were recorded by Newton-John and included on her Long Live Love album, her first for the EMI Records label.
The Long Live Love album was released in the US as If You Love Me, Let Me Know with the six Eurovision songs dropped for four different, more country-oriented tracks intended to capitalize on the success of “Let Me Be There“. The title trackwas the first single reaching No. 5 Pop, No. 2 Country (her best country position to date) and No. 2 AC. The next single, “I Honestly Love You“, became Newton-John‘s signature song. Written and composed by Jeff Barry and Peter Allen, the ballad became her first number-one Pop (two weeks), second number-one AC(three weeks) and third Top 10 Country (No. 6) hit and earned Newton-John two more Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance-Female. The success of both singles helped the album reach No. 1 on both the Pop (one week) and Country (eight weeks) Albums charts.
Newton-John‘s country success sparked a debate among purists, who took issue with a foreigner singing country-flavored pop music being equated with native Nashville artists. In addition to her Grammy for “Let Me Be There“, Newton-John was also named the Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year in 1974, defeating more established Nashville-based nominees Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker, as well as Canadian artist Anne Murray.
This protest, in part, led to the formation of the short-lived Association of Country Entertainers (ACE). Newton-John was eventually supported by the country music community. Stella Parton, Dolly‘s sister, recorded Ode to Olivia and Newton-John recorded her 1976 album, Don’t Stop Believin‘, in Nashville.
Newton-John in 1978 Encouraged by expatriate Australian singer Helen Reddy,Newton-John left the UK and moved to the US. Newton-John topped the Pop (one week)and Country (six weeks) Albums charts with her next album, Have You Never BeenMellow. The album generated two singles— the John Farrar-penned title track (No.1 Pop, No. 3 Country, No. 1 AC) and “Please Mr. Please“ (No. 3 Pop, No.5 Country, No. 1 AC). However, her pop career cooled with the release of her next album, Clearly Love. Her streak of five consecutive gold Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 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 Billboard 200 charts again until 1978
. Newton-John‘s singles continued to easily top the AC chart, where she ultimately amassed ten No. 1 singles including a record seven consecutively:
• “I Honestly Love You“ (1974)— 3 weeks
• “Have You Never Been Mellow“ (1975)— 1 week
• “Please Mr. Please“ (1975)— 3 weeks
• “Something Better to Do“ (1975)— 3 weeks
• “Let It Shine“/“ He Ain’t Heavy, He‘s My Brother“ (1976)— 2 weeks
• “Come on Over“ (1976)— 1 week
• “Don’t Stop Believin‘“ (1976)— 1 week
She provided a prominent, but uncredited, vocal on John Denver‘s “Fly Away“ single which was succeeded by her own single, “Let It Shine“/“He Ain’t Heavy, He‘s My Brother“, at No. 1 on the AC chart. (“Fly Away“ returned to No. 1 after the two-week reign of “Let It Shine“.) Newton-John also continued to reach the Country Top 10 where she tallied seven Top 10 singles through 1976‘s “Come on Over“ (No. 23 Pop, No. 5 Country, No. 1 AC) and six consecutive (of a career nine total)Top 10 albums through 1976‘s Don’t Stop Believin‘ (No. 30 Pop, No. 7 Country).She headlined her first US television special, A Special Olivia Newton-John, in November 1976.
By mid-1977, Newton-John‘s AC and country success also began to wane. Her Making a Good Thing Better album (No. 34 Pop, No. 13 Country) failed to be certified gold, and its only single, the title track (No. 87 Pop, No. 20 AC), did not reach even the AC Top 10 or the Country chart. Later that year, Olivia Newton-John‘s Greatest Hits (No. 13 Pop, No. 7 Country) became her first platinum album.
In 1979, Newton-John received the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal from Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in London.