11 min read ⌚
Remember Olivia Newton-John?
Wonder what she’s doing now?
Let her tell you herself!
Dear readers, the long-awaited memoir of Australia’s sweetheart:
Who Should Read “Don’t Stop Believin’”? And Why?
The blurb says that Don’t Stop Believin’ should be “perfect for fans of Tina Turner’s My Love Story and Sally Field’s In Pieces.”
We’ll go even further: it should prove to be a great read for anyone who dreamt of becoming – or finding – a Sandy in her/his own life after the 1978 smash-hit Grease, and, well, for any music lover out there.
After all, Olivia Newton-John is one of the best-selling artists of all time and has sold more records than, say, the aforementioned Turner, The Who, Stevie Wonder or David Bowie.
Naturally, don’t dare to miss this memoir if you’re Australian. Because, let’s face it, ONJ is nothing short of a national treasure.
About Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John is an English-Australian singer, actress, and activist.
A four-time Grammy Award winner, Newton-John has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling artists of all time.
Eleven of her singles have been certified gold, two of which have been certified platinum as well; in addition, fourteen of her albums has received a gold certification: two of them have been certified platinum and another four double platinum.
Even so, Newton-John is probably most known as the protagonist in the musical Grease, the soundtrack of which is one of the most successful soundtracks in history; in addition, the single (sung with John Travolta) “You’re the One That I Want” is the 14th best-selling single ever.
“Don’t Stop Believin’ PDF Summary”
Heartwarming and engaging, humorous and candid, Don’t Stop Believin’ reveals Olivia Newton-John’s life story – as the blurb says – “from her unforgettable rise to fame in the classic musical Grease to her passionate advocacy for health and wellness in light of her battles with cancer.”
Consequently, basically any biography of Newton-John – say, Wikipedia’s article on her – is a sort of a summary of this book; it would be pointless if just run through the most important parts of her life as well because then we’ll probably sound just too factual and too boring.
And Don’t Stop Believin’ is anything but!
That’s why we opted for a different strategy, and, in continuation, we share with you the most interesting bits and pieces of Olivia Newton-John’s biography, taken from the early parts of her life, when she was not that famous.
Of course, if you’re interested in finding out more – you can buy the book! Or write to us to update the summary with the second half of her life.
Hope you’ll enjoy this one!
That’s Quite an Interesting Family You’ve Got There, ONJ!
When Olivia Newton-John sums up a brief stroll through her family history with the stereotypical “A lot to live up to!” you certainly wouldn’t expect that to be an understatement.
But, believe us, it more than is!
Let’s start with Newton-John’s father Brinley “Bryn” Newton-John (1914–1992) who was a talented singer with a beautiful bass-baritone voice, and a Headmaster at Cambridgeshire High School for Boys when Olivia was born.
Well, to use Olivia’s words, he was also a “big force of nature and former MI5 agent.” Even more, he was on the Enigma project and was one of the guys who took Rudolf Hess into custody. The Rudolf Hess of “Adolf Hitler’s Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess.”
But that’s nothing compared to Olivia Newton-John’s remarkable family on her mother’s side.
To start with, Newton-John’s mother, Irene Helene, was a translator of a book of letters exchanged between Albert Einstein and Max Born, titled, simply, The Born-Einstein Letters.
Max Born, in case you didn’t know, was a German-Jewish physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1954.
Why is he important to be mentioned here in a separate sentence?
Well, in addition to being one of the greatest physicists of the last century, a friend of Einstein, and a dedicated celebrator of peace, Born was also Irene Helene’s father and, thus, Olivia Newton-John’s maternal grandfather!
Now, Max Born was married to the daughter of the famous German jurist Victor Ehrenberg whose wife’s father was the founder of the historical school of law, Rudolf von Jhering.
Go even further back, and you’ll reach none other than Martin Luther, the guy who basically invented modern religion for most of the Western world!
“And there’s a Spanish king in there somewhere, too,” adds Newton-John.
A lot to live up to, indeed!
Olivia Newton-John Walked In Once on John Lennon and Yoko Ono
If you know at least something about Olivia Newton-John, then you probably know Bruce Welch.
Best known as a member of The Shadows, Bruce Welch often acted as Cliff Richard’s producer and wrote several of his and Olivia Newton-John’s hits.
He was also a fiancée of Newton-John for a while, and one of the co-producers of her first album, If Not for You.
The other, in case you’re interested, was Newton-John’s long-time musical partner (and soon a member of The Shadows), John Farrar, who had just married Olivia’s singing partner from her Australian days, Pat Campbell.
Anyway, it was 1971, and If Not For You was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London. A frequent guest at the recordings was Newton-John’s dog Geordie who knocked the mic stand during the guitar solo in the title song.
And you know what? If you listen carefully, you can hear it on the final recording!
Even more interestingly, in the very next studio while Newton-John was recording her first album, George Martin was recording The Beatles’ last album.
Bruce was friends with them, so Newton-John got to meet them all.
And how close was Bruce to them?
Well, let’s just say that a few years before, Paul McCartney offered him a song. Bruce wanted to hear it first, and Paul played a few bars of the song to Bruce, who eventually turned it down.
“It had a different working title then,” says Newton-John, “but it was ‘Yesterday’!”
Oh, yeah, about the title of the section.
“One day,” informs us candidly Newton-John, “I walked in and found John and Yoko sitting around with their arms and legs entwined, young and in love. It’s a beautiful memory.”
If you say so, ONJ! Knowing them, we are not even sure if they were fully clothed.
How to Attract the Attention of a Young Olivia Newton-John
“It was exciting to have an album out and the next months went by in a blur of getting-to-know-you promotional appearances on television shows across Europe, the UK, and Australia, along with a stage tour,” writes Newton-John.
“Perhaps I was too young to handle it all,” she adds, “but I went down a path that I would later regret, which led to Bruce and me breaking off our engagement.”
After their breakup, Olivia went to the South of France on holiday with her friend (and then London roommate) Chantal from Australia.
Chantal invited Olivia to meet her fiancé’s cousin, a certain Lee Kramer. They had a lovely summer night out, during which, at one point, he leaned over to her and told her: “You sure look better at night than in the daytime.”
“Well, he certainly had my attention!” writes Olivia.
Anyway, Newton-John was supposed to leave for London the next day, and, well, you know what they say, “Summer fling don’t mean a thing.”
Lee Kramer thought otherwise, though.
Let’s rephrase that: you know who was sitting next to her on her flight back?
He would tell her many years later that he paid a lot of money for that seat.
But he did get Newton-John in return: they dated for a few years during which he was also her manager.
And during this year another interesting thing happened: Newton-John, then just 26 years old, was selected to represent the United Kingdom at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest.
Olivia sang a different song each week on The Cliff Richard Show, with the public voting for their favorite.
The public eventually chose the song “Long Live Love” and fared quite good at the contest.
Now, the book says that she “came in third,” but we did a little check and found out that, in fact, she shared the fourth place, behind Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden.
Yup, not that anyone had a chance to win that year: Sweden finished first because they sent ABBA and because ABBA sang “Waterloo” that year.
Not that ONJ minded: “I loved ABBA, and we became fast friends,” notes she in her memoir.
Anyway, even though her career was taking off, Newton-John’s personal life was in shambles: she broke up with Lee, and got back together with Bruce for a short time; but that didn’t work out either.
Interestingly enough, Britain’s representative at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973 was Cliff Richard, and The Shadows (now with John Farrar) represented the UK one year later.
We don’t know this for a fact, but we’re quite sure that this has to be the only case in Eurovision’s history when two ex-fiancées and several (ex-)musical collaborators represented the same country in three consecutive years!
“One of the interesting parts of fame is that you get to meet so many actors and musicians that you admire and look up to,” writes Olivia Newton-John.
Here are some of those early encounters.
Being Mixed Up with Led Zeppelin
Once, when Newton-John was on tour with Paul Williams, she traveled with him on a private jet to each gig. And remember, these are the pre-Sandy 2 days still, so Olivia Newton-John was the “hopelessly devoted” nice girl everybody loved to love!
Well, that nice girl got into the worst whipped cream fight at 35,000 feet in the air and made a gigantic mess inside the private jet.
“Who was on that plane?” ONJ heard someone asking later on. “Led Zeppelin.”
“No,” they were told. “Olivia Newton-John!”
They couldn’t believe it.
Looking for a Dog with Dustin Hoffmann
When she auditioned for Tootsie, Newton-John got to spend a day with none other but Dustin Hoffmann.
“He was really funny and suggested we just walk around one of the neighborhoods in Malibu,” she writes. “We talked about movies and life, and finally found ourselves walking up a long driveway by mistake. Imagine the homeowner who looked up, saw us and actually did say, ‘Can I help you . . . two?’”
“Oh, we’re looking for our lost dog,” Dustin riffed.
Gloria Swanson’s Health Advice
“Perhaps one of my biggest star encounters,” writes Newton-John, “happened at the Cannes Film Festival when I was just in my twenties.”
But this is one of those encounters that deserve to be quoted in full:
I spooned sugar into my cup at the exact moment, in the south of France, the iconic film star Gloria Swanson swooped up those stairs. There she stood in full make-up with a bright silk scarf around her hair and wearing a long, flowing robe with bangles on her wrist. She was absolutely gorgeous, and looking right at me . . . and the tray filled with treats.
‘Darling,’ Miss Swanson said as she approached. ‘Don’t eat sugar. It’s poison.’ It’s amazing that she was aware of the health risks of sugar back then, and I should have listened to her. Now, it’s forty years later, and I’m finally on a no-sugar diet. I’m a slower learner!
Covered by Elvis Presley
A few years later, Newton-John was invited to see Elvis at the Hilton in Las Vegas; next to her, on either side, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber were seated.
However, even that meant nothing when compared to the shock which followed: Elvis saying Olivia’s name and covering her song “Let Me Be There.”
Backstage, she met the “warm and welcoming” Doris Day, but, unfortunately, didn’t get the chance to meet the King himself.
He had an emergency and had to, well, leave the building.
“I did hear later that Elvis told others that he was the one who told me to record ‘I Honestly Love You,’” Newton-John writes. “Not true. We never spoke! But I’m still so knocked out that he said my name.”
The Elegant Cat Stevens
During her Japan tour, the young Olivia Newton-John had one of her “most eye-opening celebrity encounters.”
It was with Cat Stevens, and it happened in an elevator.
Stevens looked very handsome “with long, dark hair and a beard, wearing a gorgeous velvet shirt and beautifully tailored pants.”
He invited Olivia to his show, where she saw him “in torn jeans and a white, grungy t-shirt – so different from the elegantly dressed man in real life.”
But, as Newton-John concludes, that’s show business after all.
Key Lessons from “Don’t Stop Believin’”
1. Olivia Newton-John Is a Descendant of Martin Luther and a Nobel Prize Winner
2. ABBA Won the Eurovision Song Contest Olivia Newton-John Took Part In
3. Bob Dylan Wrote Olivia Newton-John’s First Hit
Olivia Newton-John Is a Descendant of Martin Luther and a Nobel Prize Winner
Though her father was an MI5 agent who took Rudolf Hess into custody, Olivia John’s maternal family line is far more remarkable.
For a start, her grandfather was Max Born, a German Nobel Prize-winning physicist and a close friend of Albert Einstein, and her great-great-grandfather was one of the guys who founded the historical school of law.
More remarkably, Olivia Newton-John is a descendant of a Spanish king and none other than Martin Luther, the first Protestant in history.
ABBA Won the Eurovision Song Contest Olivia Newton-John Took Part In
Olivia Newton-John represented Britain at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974.
Though she says she came in third, the official results say that she ultimately finished fourth.
But, then again, they were all fighting for second place: the winner was ABBA’s “Waterloo,” widely considered the best Eurovision song in history.
Bob Dylan Wrote Olivia Newton-John’s First Hit
If Not for You, Olivia Newton-John’s first album – recorded at about the same time and in the same studio as The Beatles’ last – featured several covers of famous songs.
The title track, however, was a cover of a Bob Dylan song, already covered by George Harrison as well.
Interestingly enough, as ONJ would find out decades later, “If Not For You” was her husband John’s favorite song.
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“Don’t Stop Believin’ Quotes”Mum would often tell me that, as a little girl, I sang perfectly in tune. ‘You sing like an angel,’ she said. I always made my mother and my sister cry when I sang, but in a good way (hopefully). Click To Tweet He was a Hollywood bad-boy legend with a long list of girlfriends… He called up one night when Susan wasn’t there and asked me out again… His name? I’ll never tell! Click To Tweet America was letting me know that the welcome mat was out. I made the big move. Click To Tweet (John Travolta) was a triple threat – acting, dancing and singing – plus all that charisma and incredible sexy movie-star looks. Click To Tweet You could call this a tale of two Sandys. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Even though some have branded it “too lightweight for a memoir,” fans of Olivia Newton-John seem to adore Don’t Stop Believin’.
And though it is true that the book lacks at least a bit depth – practically everyone comes good of it – we can’t deny that we enjoyed it as well.Let’s put it this way: it will neither take too much of your time nor bore you. And you’ll get to learn a bit more about one of the most recognizable voices – and, perhaps, the nice girl – of the 20th century.