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Olivia Newton-John :: Still The One That We Want

by Bill Biss
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Aug 28, 2012

Not only is Olivia Newton-John a pop music icon, the Australian native is etched in our collective culture as a true beauty with a lot of heart, who has created many musical memories over the past forty years. Songs such as "I Honestly Love You," "Hopefully Devoted To You," "Physical" or "A Little More Love" reflect the times and emotions of a generation. Her current tour, A Summer Night with Olivia Newton-John, takes her all over North America, including British Columbia, Idaho, Utah, California.

She is also a breast cancer survivor. This led her to become an advocate in raising awareness about illness; write a cookbook (called "Livwise") on easy-to-make recipes for a healthy, happy and balanced lifestyle; and to create The Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre at The Austin Hospital in Heidelberg, Melbourne. She was also recently awarded the accolade of "Australian's National Treasure."

EDGE was fortunate to catch up with Newton-John to talk about her latest project: the film "A Few Best Men" and the accompanying soundtrack; her sincere joy in realizing her dream of helping others with the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre and sharing a few precious memories of starring in the landmark 1978 film musical "Grease."

Her Wellness Center

EDGE: How did you feel about the opening of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre this past June?

Olivia Newton-John: I’m so proud of the whole thing. The hospital agreed to put a ’wellness’ centre there, which was a huge thing, as it’s a public hospital. I’m so delighted because when you walk in to a hospital and it says, ’Cancer & Wellness Centre,’ just that visual is a really positive influence on your outcome. Your mental attitude is extremely important to the outcome. Just seeing the ’wellness’ attached to the cancer is such a positive thing.

Let alone that it’s a state-of-the-art and beautiful hospital that looks like a hotel. Plus, The Wellness Centre is peaceful, beautiful and we have many wonderful therapies such as music therapy, group and yoga sessions and more things to come. I couldn’t be more delighted.

’A Few Best Men’

EDGE: In the upcoming Aussie comedy ’A Few Best Men,’ you portray the mother of the bride. In the trailer, your character says, ’Is that cocaine? Line it up!’

Olivia Newton-John: I know, I know. I had so much fun making that movie, absolutely. We had a blast. The cast was amazing. The director Stephan Elliott is so much fun. He did ’Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.’ Did you see that?

EDGE: Meanwhile, soundtrack is also fun. ’Weightless,’ written by the father-son team of John and Max Farrar,’ ) is totally hot. John Farrar has done so many excellent collaborations with you. Also, there are the new recordings of several classic 1970s songs revamped as dance remixes.

Olivia Newton-John: They wanted an original song for the credits. I suggested John Farrar because he’s a really close friend and my most successful collaborator. I wanted him to write the music and they loved that idea. About two months later, they asked me if I would do dance-remix versions of the songs on the soundtrack. I’ve never done that before. It was a lot of fun sampling stuff. Stephan [Elliott] was involved in the musical production and it was great!

(Among the songs on the soundtrack are "Daydream Believer," "Afternoon Delight," "Sugar Sugar," "Mickey" and "Brand New Key" remixed by international and local DJs such as Chew FU, Roulette and Archie.)

EDGE: Several years ago, you told me about a dance-remix album. What happened?

Olivia Newton-John: You really must have stirred something; maybe you created something in the universe.

Lyrics are important

EDGE: Your 1988 album, ’The Rumour,’ has songs that still resonate, like ’Tutta la Vita,’ ’Walk Through Fire’ and ’Get Out.’

Olivia Newton-John: Oh really! I’ve never performed those songs from ’The Rumour’ in concert. Those songs [’Walk Through Fire’ and ’Get Out’] I’ve never done for some reason, because they were not really successful for me commercially. I do a lot of other tracks but those I’ve never done.

EDGE: ’Tutta La Vita’ and ’Walk Through Fire’ are truly inspirational.

Olivia Newton-John: Davitt Sigerson produced that album. He had produced a group called David and David. Interesting guy. Unfortunately, that album didn’t do very well.

EDGE: Your music remains ’timeless’ and your lyrical content remains relevant. It’s a gift.
Talk about ’Love and Let Live,’ where you addressed safe-sex and AIDS.

Olivia Newton-John: Yeah, that was Davitt’s and I think I’ve been very fortunate with producers whom I have had. I’ve always been very conscious of what I was saying lyrically. Lyrics are really important to me, and the melodies, of course. I’ve had wonderful writers. I’ve had John Farrar [’Hopelessly Devoted to You’ among many other hits], I’ve had Stevie Kipner [’Physical’] and I’ve been really blessed with the people who I have been lucky enough to work with. We’ve been a very wonderful and lucky combination, so I’ve been very blessed in my career and I’m very grateful for it.

Remembering ’Grease’

EDGE: You wrote all the songs for ’Gaia: One Woman’s Journey’ after you completed your treatment for breast cancer. Please share some of your experience and what brought the song out titled ’Why Me?’

Olivia Newton-John: It was on my own. That’s the only album where I’ve done all the songs alone. That song was really relevant to me because a lot of people, when they get sick, they become victimized and start saying, ’Why me?’ I thought that was negative. I didn’t think that it was really beneficial to think that way.

Cancer can happen to anybody. Rather than think that way, get well and healthy! I always had a feeling deep down that there is a reason for everything. Maybe if I hadn’t had cancer, I wouldn’t be doing the things that I’m doing now. I wouldn’t be involved in building the Cancer and Wellness Centre. My life would be a very different story, so I am actually grateful for that experience. Really grateful that I survived it, of course and it gave me a direction, a course and a lot of meaning to my life.

EDGE: You are a true cultural icon. ’Grease’ will never be dated. Could you discuss that hugely successful film.

Olivia Newton-John: I didn’t find any of it hard. That was the beauty of it. Such an enjoyable experience and a lot of fun, I didn’t find anything difficult [laughter]. I think we all were kind of very blessed in that production. We were all having a great time and it’s exactly like it looked like on screen. It was like a bunch of ’kids.’

EDGE: You really are an ’Australian National Treasure.’

Olivia Newton-John: Ah, thank you so much. Thank you.

Olivia Newton-John’s tour includes dates on September 6, 2012 at Eagle River Pavilion in Boise, ID; Sept.10, 2012 at Humphrey’s in San Diego, CA; Sept. 13, 2012 at Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco, CA; and Sept 15, 2012 at Silver Legacy in Reno, NV. For a complete list of ONJ’s tour dates (through December), visit theOlivia Newton-John website.

Watch the trailer to A Few Best Men:


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