If you know me, you know that Olivia Newton-John is “my” artist. Almost everyone has one; The artist or band that you discovered when you were young, and followed for most of your life. Olivia was mine.
Her passing after a long battle with breast cancer had many people remembering Olivia. For me, I almost feel like I lost a family member. Olivia’s music and career had a profound impact on me and my life. I even talked to CBC Radio about it.
Here, in no particular order, are some of my favourite Olivia songs – some well-know, some a little more obscure. While many people know Olivia from her role in Grease, she has so many other great songs. My favourite Olivia era was 1978-1992, so many of my favourite songs are from those years.
When asked for my favourite Olivia song by CBC, I chose Magic (from the Xanadu soundtrack). It’s an all-time favourite, and some of the lyrics hit especially deep in the wake of Olivia’s passing. I love this version (from the movie), because the way she reads her lines is at once sweet and enigmatic. Much like Sonny Malone’s character, we’re instantly beguiled.
Fun fact: Olivia didn’t know how to stop on roller skates when she filmed this scene.
“We’ll see each other again. Bye, Sonny.”
A Little More Love (1978)
“Totally Hot” is probably my favourite Olivia album. It’s her “country-pop crossover” album (Yeah, Taylor Swift owes Olivia a huge debt of gratitude), and this song is just pop perfection. The chord modulation, the production… The chorus. It just works.
The Rumour (1988)
This song (and album) is an underrated gem. The album was co-produced by Elton John, and he sang backup vocals on the title track. If you listen closely, you can hear his unmistakable voice. It sounds like an Elton John song, as sung by Olivia.
Recovery & Stranger’s Touch (1981)
My two favourite songs from Olivia’s iconic “Physical” album were not released as singles… Although, in a music industry first, she made videos for EVERY SONG ON THE ALBUM, and released it on home video (and Australian TV). These two songs are impeccably produced by John Farrar, the videos tell stories, and I just love them.
Jolene (Physical Tour, 1981)
Yes, THAT Jolene.
Originally covered by Olivia on her 1976 album, “Come On Over,” her performance of the Dolly Parton classic during the 1981 “Physical” tour is a whole new, sped-up take on the song. Plus, the end wails of “Jolene” in this version are iconic, and show Olivia’s vocal range – Dolly would be proud.
Shaking You (1984)
Six years after Grease, Olivia re-teamed with John Travolta for a mess of a movie (which I absolutely love) called “Two Of a Kind.” While this song wasn’t as popular as “Twist of Fate,” and “Livin’ In Desperate Times,” it’s a heart-wrenching song of a relationship that’s just run its course.
I Honestly Love You (1974)
Of course, this is one Olivia’s most well-known and best-loved songs. But this song holds a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. Some of them are too personal for here… But I also performed this song in a teen talent show (circa 1990) at the North 40 Saloon in Brandon… So it will always have a special place in my heart.
There are so many more I could share – and maybe I will in the future… If you’ve gotten this far already, thank you. This post is as much for me as it is for the rest of the world. I’ve lost “my” musical artist. But I’ll never forget her.
Rest in peace, Olivia. We honestly love you.