After back-to-back #1 hit albums, Olivia Newton-John released four albums over the next three years with diminishing returns, sales-wise. She continued to place singles atop the Adult Contemporary chart (seven in a row at one point) and high on the Country chart, but didn’t enjoy as much crossover success.
Among the songs she recorded during this span are covers of Dolly Parton (‘Jolene’) and The Beatles (‘The Long and Winding Road’), show tunes (‘Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina’), and a track titled ‘Don’t Stop Believin” that isn’t the one by Journey.
Olivia Newton-John followed up her #1-charting compilation album If You Love Me, Let Me Go with her second straight #1 album, 1975’s Have You Never Been Mellow.
Released just five months apart, the dual chart-toppers gave Newton-John a Guinness World Record for the shortest span between consecutive #1 albums by a female artist. She held that record for 45 years, until Taylor Swift beat it by 14 days with the 2020 releases of folklore and evermore.
Last week I featured five unexpected performances by Joni Mitchell, an artist many thought would never perform again due to health problems.
Now, I have a sadder mission. A week ago today, beloved singer-actress Olivia Newton-John passed away at just 73, presumably succumbing to the cancer she has battled for more than 30 years.
I have long been a fan of Newton-John’s. I had a childhood crush on her that has persisted to this day. I love her iconic turn as Sandy in Grease and I count at least one of her songs among my all-time favorites.
This week I will honor the great British-Australian talent by featuring five of her songs.
Talking is Hard, the third album by Ohio-based alternative rock band Walk the Moon, is one of the great pop albums of the last decade or more. I spent a lot of time listening to this album in the years after its release, and I’m always thrilled to come across it in a playlist or on a Random iTunes Weekend.
Every track on this album is a winner. ‘Shut Up and Dance’ was a top five single that pushed the album into the top 20, but the band has managed to land only one song in the Hot 100 since.
‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ is a deep cut on David Bowie’s ninth studio album, 1975’s Young Americans. This song, which took its title from the 1956 Paul Newman movie, takes aim at a villainous television celebrity.
Young Americans found Bowie in his “plastic soul” period, moving away from glam rock and toward R&B and soul. This detour would last about an album and a half.