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TAKE FIVE:

1970s star ‘hopelessly devoted’ to celebrating life

By: - Desk Editor
/ 09:09 PM March 20, 2012

OLIVIA Newton-John. Photo by Michelle Day

Olivia Newton-John probably will not make it to critics’ top lists for her music but so what? Fans never tire of listening to her voice in songs that unwaveringly believe in the magic of old-fashioned romance.

At 63, the lady is on a roll – still recording, touring, and acting in musical films. She also travels the world promoting breast cancer awareness, health (she co-owns a spa and has just released a cookbook), and other concerns.

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She is doing a concert on March 31 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Meanwhile she granted the Inquirer this e-mail interview:

You had a string of mellow pop hits, and then “Grease” came along. What did you appreciate about this change of image?

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“Grease” was a wonderful experience in my life. That film gave me the opportunity to explore other kinds of music. It continues to find new audiences more than 30 years later. I love seeing young boys and girls at my concerts who are there to hear songs from “Grease.”

Your other musical film, “Xanadu,” though described as a critical failure when first released, had a hit soundtrack. How affected were you when the Razzies nominated you for worst actress?

“Xanadu” was also a great experience for me. I got to dance with Gene Kelly and the soundtrack was a huge hit with the title track, as well as “Magic” and “Suddenly.” The film had some problems with the script but the music lives on and it has even had great success on Broadway. I always focus on the positive things in life and the songs from “Xanadu” continue to bring joy to many people.

A year later, you released your most successful studio album, “Physical,” which attracted controversy for its sexual connotation.

I knew “Physical” was a great song and it was written by a fellow Aussie, Steve Kipner and produced by another fellow Aussie, John Farrar. But I was so nervous about it, so much in fact that I called my manager and told him to pull it out as it was too naughty. He told me it was too late, it had gone to radio and, as you know, it shot to the top of the charts in just a few weeks. For the video, I said we needed to make it about exercise so that it would not be perceived as naughty. It was also a big hit and I was lucky that it won the Grammy for Best Music Video, too! So I guess my life lesson was, if something makes you nervous, embrace it!

You successfully battled breast cancer in 1992 and it inspired you to write songs about dealing with the disease. Did it also change your view on health and sickness?

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I have always lived a life of being healthy and making healthy choices. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, of course there was fear. But now, 20 years later, I see that that experience gave me the opportunity to help millions of people around the world by showing them that they too, can overcome the disease. In June 2012 we will open the doors to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center.

What keeps you busy these days, aside from touring?

I have been very busy with recording, touring and, earlier this year, I acted in a new movie, “A Few Best Men,” where I played a very different role. It also has a great soundtrack … I tour the world promoting breast cancer awareness. I released a cookbook, “LivWise: Easy Recipes for a Healthy, Happy Life.” I also travel with my husband, “Amazon John” Easterling, to talk about the importance of preserving the Amazon rainforest. My life focuses a lot today on health and wellness, and I am also the co-owner of the Gaia Retreat and Spa near Byron Bay in Australia. I go there to relax.

What has music done to you on an intellectual and spiritual level?

Music has always been my therapy. I recently recorded a CD called “Grace & Gratitude: Renewed”—over one hour of continuous music that was created to help heal the whole person in body, mind and spirit. Music brings joy to many people on many levels. I love how music can inspire, heal and bring out many different emotions in people.

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