Posted December 3, 2012 by Jeff in Tunes

Olivia Newton-John reunites with her ‘Grease’ co-star for the holidays

Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John

Singer Olivia Newton-John has amassed some big numbers: 40 years in the music biz, 100 million albums sold and four Grammy Awards awards. She’s also picked up an Emmy and received numerous People’s Choice, Billboard, Country Music and American Music Awards along the way. Currently wrapping up a 35-city U.S. tour, Newton-John and just released This Christmas, an album that pairs her with John Travolta for the first time in decades. We got the Aussie star on the phone for all of six minutes for a preview piece we’re writing. Here’s what she had to share during our very brief chat.

You’re currently celebrating 40 years in the music business. What has kept you going all this time?
I think I just enjoy it. I enjoy myself and I love to sing. There’s always something new to do. Every ten years, I think I’m going to quit and there will be nothing more for me to do, and the sun comes up and I keep going.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought you would retire?
Yes, when I had breast cancer, I thought I was going to stop then and that was in 1992. In 2000 I sang for the Olympics and I thought that was the peak of my career and nothing more would get interesting. But after that I was asked to sing for President Clinton and Hillary and Al Gore and it just kept going. Other things came up and it even got better. It’s been wonderful.

He [John Travolta] just had this flash and thought that if we just won the best duet of all time, we should do a Christmas album together.

Talk about the Christmas album you’ve just released with John Travolta. Who came up with the idea for it?
Actually, he did. I had written him and told him that “You’re the One That I Want” was just voted the number one duet of all time.  It was around Christmas time and he was listening to holiday music with his family. He just had this flash and thought that if we just won the best duet of all time, we should do a Christmas album together. He wrote me back and said we should do a Christmas song together. I said “sure” not thinking that any more would happen with it. We ran into each other at an event and decided to do it for a charity and that’s how it happened. It became something that meant something to the both of us that we thought we’d have fun doing.

Is it really your first collaboration since 1983?
It’s our first since whenever we did Two of Kind. I’m not good with dates.

Why did it take so long for you to work together again?
We don’t like to rush things. It never was the right song or the right moment and it just happened. It wasn’t really planned.

It can’t be easy figuring out which Christmas songs to cover. What criteria did you use?
We sat with Randy Waldman who’s an amazing piano player and went through tons of them. We had an even bigger list that we cut down before that to include only ones we had in common. We had to see which ones suited our voices. It was an interesting journey putting it together.

In “Winter Wonderland,” you sing about wanting to live up North but you’re usually in warmer climates. Do you really like the cold?
I like the snow, but I wouldn’t want to live in it.

Are you including any of the Christmas tunes on your current tour?
Um, no.

You have written your own cookbook and are a big advocate of healthy living. Do you still have a guilty pleasure?
Of course I do. I’m human. I eat chocolate but chocolate is actually good for you. I’ll just have a spoonful and not the whole thing.

Grease is essentially the gift that keeps on giving as it seems every generation rediscovers that musical and falls in love with it. Why do you think it has endured?
I think you said it. You said it yourself and you don’t need me. It’s a happy film and a great music. The characters are larger than life. It has an amazing energy, and there’s not one dead spot in it.



Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].