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Olivia Newton-John
, 1978 (printed 2017)

by Gary Heery

inkjet print (frame: 116.5 cm x 92.0 cm, image: 99.5 cm x 79.5 cm)

Olivia Newton-John AO OBE (b. 1948) came from England to Australia as a five-year-old with her parents. They settled in Melbourne, where Brin Newton-John was master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne. Having won an early television talent contest Olivia formed an all-girl group and by 1963 was appearing regularly on weekly variety programs in Australia. She cut her first single in England in 1966, but her first big hit came in 1971, with a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘If Not For You’ which was followed with ‘Banks of the Ohio’, a hit in the USA and Australia. Her US album debut, Let Me Be There, produced a smash single of the same name and won her the first of her four Grammy awards. She has since sold more than 100 million albums; had ten number one singles including ‘Physical’, which topped charts for ten consecutive weeks in the early 1980s; had more than 15 top ten singles; and won many industry awards. Newton-John’s popularity had plateaued when in 1978, the year she turned 30, she played a teen named Sandy in the film Grease, which became the most successful movie musical in history. Since then she has continued to perform intermittently. Along with establishing various businesses, since the mid-1980s Newton-John has devoted much energy to children’s organisations and cancer treatment facilities, notably funding the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre (ONJCWC) in Melbourne in 2012.

Gary Heery has photographed album covers for Madonna, Joe Cocker and Paul Simon and portraits for Life, Esquire, Rolling Stone and Interview. He took this photograph in California.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2017
Accession number: 2017.104