Olivia Newton-John was my everything when I was a child.
I was also quite fond of Lucy Ewing on “Dallas” (Charlene Tilton), Dolly Parton and Crystal Gayle, but while my friends were into Farrah Fawcett or Princess Leia, the proverbial apple of my eye was Olivia Newton-John.
Music was my first love in life. It was a part of my life as early as I can remember — I’m guessing that was somewhere around age 3 or 4. And long before there was The Police or The Cars or Metallica, there was AM radio. I was, and remain, a huge fan of the music of Tony Orlando, The Carpenters, Charlie Rich, Chicago, Electric Light Orchestra and Olivia Newton-John. I also loved Wings — sorry folks, I like “Silly Love Songs” more than I like some songs by The Beatles.
Long before I had ever seen Olivia Newton-John, who will be at the IP Casino Resort on Saturday, I loved her music. There was something about her voice that was very appealing to me. As a child who grew up in an alcoholic home, I needed my own escape and music gave me that. It still does. And there was something especially soothing and lovely about the voice of Olivia Newton-John.
She also happened to have great songs. John Farrar knew how to both write great songs and, as a producer, how to make those songs sound amazing. There was “Let Me Be There,” “If You Love Me,” “Please Mr. Please” and “Have You Never Been Mellow” — all are perfect examples of Ms. Newton-John’s ability to seamlessly blend country and pop.
Then one day in a record store, I saw the album “Have You Never Been Mellow” and I realized Olivia Newton-John not only could sing like an angel, she looked like one, too.
My self-professed “fan boy-dom” for Ms. Newton-John continued, especially with the release of “Grease” and “Xanadu.” In fact, it was after the release of “Xanadu” in 1980 that I decided, at 9 years old, that it was time to lay it all on the table — I wrote Ms. Newton-John a letter and asked her if she would marry me. I gave it to my parents and asked them to mail it to her and they said they would. I never heard back from her.
Some 37 years later, I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Newton-John. I asked her about that letter. And although I’m fairly certain she’s had to endure that from every male reporter she’s spoken with, she politely laughed and said, “You didn’t receive my reply?” I finally had closure after all those years.
But I don’t want this to be some sexist diatribe about the physical appearance of Olivia Newton-John. As an adult, I’m still just as fond of her music as I ever was. And as a music nerd, I’m very intrigued by the fact that she got to work with Jeff Lynne of ELO on Xanadu. And she was more than happy to let me question her about it.
“I worked on the music for ‘Xanadu’ with Jeff at his home in Los Angeles,” she said during our interview. “He had a studio there and we would work on the music — he’s really a quite brilliant man.”
I’ve always thought Jeff Lynne was brilliant, as well. So there you go — we both love Jeff Lynne. That’s the only common ground I need with anyone. Thank you, Ms. Newton-John. You will always be my favorite.