Her maternal great-grandfather was jurist Victor Ehrenberg and her matrilineal great-grandmother’s father was jurist Rudolf von Jhering. Newton-John is the youngest of three children, following brother Hugh, a doctor, and sister Rona, an actress who was married to Grease co-star Jeff Conaway from 1980 until their divorce in 1985.
Newton-John’s father was an MI5 officer on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park who took Rudolf Hess into custody during the Second World War.In 1954, when she was six, Newton-John’s family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia, where her father worked as a professor of German and as Master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne.
At fourteen, Newton-John formed a short-lived all-girl group, Sol Four, with three classmates often performing in a coffee shop owned by her brother-in-law.She became a regular on local Australian radio and television shows including HSV-7’s The Happy Show where she performed as “Lovely Livvy”.
She also appeared on the Go Show where she met future duet partner, Pat Carroll, and future music producer John Farrar (Carroll and Farrar would later marry). She entered and won a talent contest on the television program Sing, Sing, Sing, hosted by 1960s Australian icon Johnny O’Keefe, performing the songs “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”.
Newton-John was initially reluctant to use the prize she had won, a trip to Britain, but travelled there nearly a year later after her mother encouraged her to broaden her horizons.
Newton-John recorded her first single, “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine” b/w “Forever”, in Britain for Decca Records in 1966.Newton-John was homesick in Britain for her then-boyfriend, Ian Turpie, with whom she had co-starred in the Australian telefilm, Funny Things Happen Down Under.
Newton-John would repeatedly book trips back to Australia that her mother would subsequently cancel. Newton-John’s outlook changed when Pat Carroll also moved to the UK. The two formed a duo called “Pat and Olivia” and toured nightclubs in Europe. (In one incident, they were booked at Paul Raymond’s Revue in Soho, London.
Dressed primly in frilly, high-collared dresses, they were unaware that this was a strip club until they began to perform onstage.) After Carroll’s visa expired forcing her to return to Australia, Newton-John remained in Britain to pursue solo work until 1975. She became engaged to the Shadows’ guitarist Bruce Welch, but they never married.
Newton-John was recruited for the group Toomorrow formed by American producer Don Kirshner, who was also the music consultant for the earliest recordings of the Monkees. In 1970, the group starred in a “science fiction musical” film and recorded an accompanying soundtrack album both named after the group. The project failed and the group disbanded.
Newton-John continued to record and perform pop-oriented music as well. In 1998, she returned to Nashville to record Back with a Heart (No. 59 Pop).
The album returned her to the Top 10 (No. 9) on the Country Albums chart. Its first single was a re-recording of “I Honestly Love You” produced by David Foster and featuring Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds on background vocals that charted Pop (No. 67) and AC (No. 18).
Country radio dismissed the song, though it did peak at No. 16 on the Country Sales chart. The album track, “Love Is a Gift,” won Newton-John a 1999 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Song after being featured on the daytime serial, As the World Turns.
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