Olivia entered a talent contest hosted by Australian, Johnny O'Keefe in 1965 and won a trip to England and a chance to record with Decca Records. It was her first experience in a studio and although nothing much became of it, the foundation for what was to follow had been laid.
Olivia was terribly home sick for Australia and her then boyfriend, Ian Turpie. She attempted to book her return flight without telling her mother, who had accompanied her to the UK. Fortunately , her mother would not have her daughter waste this opportunity and Olivia's plans were thwarted.
When Pat Carroll, a fellow Australian, arrived in the UK, things started to improve. The two girls started singing in clubs, billing themselves "Pat and Olivia". Not all of their bookings were a success, such as their performance at Paul Raymond's Revue bar. They were somewhat surprised by the scant attire of some of the other performers. The pair, who were dressed in high-necked frilly dresses were not re-booked into what they later on discovered was a strip club.
Olivia became involved with Bruce Welch, of Cliff Richard's band, "The Shadows", which posed a few problems since he was married at the time.
Pat's visa expired in December 1969 and she was forced to return home. Movie stardom beckoned Olivia, as she was invited to join the band "Toomorrow", which was trying to be Britain's answer to the Monkees. This manufactured group issued an album in 1970 to go with their film, but the public were not impressed and the movie closed quickly, leaving Olivia to concentrate on her solo music career. Her big break came when she was invited to be a regular performer on Cliff Richard's highly successful TV show in 1972.
Olivia's career took off like a rocket in the early 70's as her association with Cliff Richard and the Shadows brought her music to a wide audience. She released the albums "Olivia Newton-John" (1971), "Olivia" (1972) and "Music Makes My Day" (1973) and a cover of Bob Dylan's "If Not For You" as her first single. This turned out to be Olivia's first taste of success in America, something she was to experience a lot more of in the next few years.
The release of "Let Me Be There", which charted at #6 in America, continued to establish Olivia as a hit maker. Her affair with Bruce Welch had ended and John Farrar, another member of the Shadows, took up songwriting and arrangement for her. Farrar had known Olivia from the early days and he later married Pat Carroll, Olivia's former singing partner and future business partner. While holidaying in 1974 in the South of France, Olivia met Lee Kramer, who had a successful business import/export business. A romance developed, and Lee was Olivia's boyfriend and manager for much of the rest of the decade.
Just before she moved to the United States to build upon her burgeoning success there, Olivia represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. The number she sang, which was selected by a poll of TV viewers, was a terrible song called "Long Live Love", and together with a long flowing baby-blue dress, turned out to be a disaster. Olivia was up against stiff competition, as ABBA stole the show with a barnstorming performance of their song "Waterloo", which launched their international career. Olivia came in a distant fourth.
Olivia left England for America in 1975 to promote her next album "Have You Never Been Mellow". The title song charted at #1 and her next single from the album, "Please Mr Please", reached #3. This was the start of a long list of hits which continued throughout the 70s. Olivia became a regular on the TV show "Midnight Special", and in 1976 she had her own TV special on ABC called "A Very Special Olivia Newton-John".
Soft ballads were Olivia's strong suit, and she rattled off a string of albums, including, "Clearly Love", "Come On Over", "Don't Stop Believin", and "Making A Good Thing Better". She toured Japan in 1976 and a concert was recorded as a live album titled "Love Performance".
Back in Los Angeles, producers were looking for a female lead to play opposite John Travolta in his forthcoming movie "Grease", and Olivia was the natural choice. Released in June 1978, Grease went on to become one of the biggest selling musicals of all time and the soundtrack album shot up the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Her album, "Totally Hot", also released in 1978, showed a new musical direction away from her early ballads to more upbeat rock. The album was a great success and Olivia toured America, Japan and Europe in support of it.
Olivia's next movie, Xanadu (1980), did not fare as well and received a panning from the critics and failed to draw the public into the cinema. The soundtrack, however, was a roaring success, with the title song, a duet with ELO, also selling well. The movie did have one positive spin-off for Olivia - she met her future husband, Matt Lattanzi, who was a dancer on the set of Xanadu.
In 1981 Olivia released the album "Physical". The title track took top spot on the U.S. charts for weeks and sold well over a million copies. The thought of getting "physical" with Olivia Newton-John was appealing to many a young man. There was also a full-length video, which was unusual at a time when videos were normally just for individual songs. The album was so successful that when Olivia toured with it the next year, she played all over America to sell-out audiences.
In an attempt to reproduce the box-office magic of 'Grease', Olivia was cast with John Travolta in the movie "Two Of A Kind". This was Olivia's first opportunity to star in a non-musical movie, but the result was not a success. Once again, however, the soundtrack, sold well with some strong tracks from Olivia and a pleasant duet with John Travolta.
Olivia married Matt Lattanzi around Christmas 1984, after they had lived together for four years.
Her next album was another change of direction, with the risqué approach of "Soulkiss". It flopped miserably. The video was shot when Olivia was pregnant with daughter Chloe, and trying not to show this constrained the artistic freedom of the director. The album, which featured Olivia in tight riding pants and boots holding a crop on the back cover, stretched things further than the public found credible.
Olivia took a long hiatus from music after Chloe's birth and the period from 1986 to 1992 was a lean period in her entertainment career, as she dedicated herself to motherhood, and to developing her business venture, a string of stores called "Koala Blue". This chain of Australian fashion stores was established with her old friend and former singing partner, fellow-Australian and wife of Olivia's long-time record producer, Pat Farrar. Koala Blue was to be a more family-friendly alternative to an intensive singing career, but the business failed in the late '80s/early '90s recession. Olivia chose to expand the franchise chain just as consumers were slowing their expenditure on non-essentials, and the company filed for Chapter 13.
In 1988, Olivia released the album, "The Rumour", with the title track penned by Elton John. The Australian version of the album features the song "It's Always Australia For Me" which is absent from international versions. "Warm And Tender", released in 1989, was an album of children's songs and lullabies, that was really meant for Chloe. It is Olivia's first real musical indulgence, which was released on the Geffen label after MCA refused to release it.
Geffen also released "Back To Basics, The Essential Collection" in 1992. This was to be Olivia's return to what she did best, a retrospective of her career, but featuring four new songs, which Olivia promoted actively, and she was rehearsing to go on tour with the album in the late summer. Then, a bombshell came on July 2. Olivia Newton-John had breast cancer. She was taken to hospital and operated on, and then underwent chemotherapy. In February the next year, she got the all-clear and returned to Australia to recuperate.
After her recovery, difficulty in Olivia's marriage, which came to a head in 1995 ended with the announcement that Olivia and husband Matt Lattanzi, were to divorce. For the next two years Olivia's career was a medley of different directions, with her participating in beauty ads for Home Shopping, a bit part in a U.S. sitcom, an Australian wildlife show titled "Human Nature", appearing in an Aussie TV series "Snowy River" and acting in the movie "It's My Party" directed by Grease director Randal Kleiser.
After two years of wandering professionally, Olivia began to feel her way musically once again, performing in the U.S. Christmas movie "Snowden On Ice", and some private performances at events for CHEC, a charity dear to Olivia's heart. In July 1997, MCA-Nashville signed Olivia, and her debut track for the label was a duet with the Raybon Bros. called "Falling". "Back With a Heart", released in May 1998, found Olivia in fine form with an excellent mix of pop and country.
Teaming up with Cliff Richard for her first live performance in many years, Australian audiences were treated to "Cliff and Olivia Live" in February and March 1998. The end of 1998 saw Olivia perform "the Main Event Tour", a sell-out show with extra dates added by popular demand. Starting on New Year's Eve 98/99 with a mini-tour, Olivia treated audiences to a set of her greatest hits, followed by a much larger tour of the United States in the summer of '99. Later that year, she took on an acting role in Del Shores independent production of the stage play "Sordid Lives"
The year 2000 brought a 14-date American tour in the spring/early Summer with a new line-up of songs from her Greatest Hits. Fans in Asia were also thrilled to see Olivia performing in Hong Kong and Korea during the Summer. The Fall of 2000 saw Olivia singing to a world wide audience, when she performed a duet with Australian superstar John Farnham at the opening Ceremonies of the Sydney Olympic Games.
Continuing to perform into 2001, a TV movie with daughter Chloe and the release of an anniversary box set celebrated 30 years of hits! Olivia kept up a busy touring and recording schedule. In 2002, she released "Duets", an album featuring mostly Australian artists. "Indigo: Women of Song", a tribute album covering songs by female artists such as Joan Baez, Karen Carpenter, Doris Day, Nina Simone, Minnie Riperton and others, was issued in 2004.
Olivia was in the news again in 2005 when her boyfriend Patrick McDermott vanished during a fishing trip and was believed to have perished at sea. In a strange twist of events, reports surfaced in 2009 that he had been traced to the Mexican fishing village of Sayulita, where he was working as a deckhand. After a private detective tracked him down in 2010, McDermott admitted that he dropped out of site the day after he and Olivia broke up and he wants no more contact with his ex-girlfriend.
In 2007, Newton-John recorded a holiday album called "Christmas Wish", which made it to #187 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart. She released another concert DVD, "Olivia Newton-John and the Sydney Symphony: Live at the Sydney Opera House", and a companion CD, "Olivia's Live Hits", in January 2008. Later that same year, she secretly wed John ("Amazon John") Easterling, founder and president of a natural remedy firm called, Amazon Herb Company.
Cutting back on her live appearance schedule, Olivia began filming A Few Best Men in Australia in January, 2011. In 2012, Newton-John embarked on a tour of Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Hong Kong. An Australian Tour of Perth, Melbourne and Sydney was scheduled as well. In October of that year, she reunited with John Travolta for a charity Christmas album that also featured collaborations with Barbra Streisand, James Taylor and Kenny G, slated to hit store shelves on November 13.
Olivia's grandfather, Max Born, won the 1954 Nobel Prize.