Olivia Newton-John: Fine-tuned instruments

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
September 3, 1999

At the end of the month, Olivia Newton-John will get out of jail. In a movie role, of course.

“I begin shooting `Sordid Lives’ when this tour is over,” Newton-John says, phoning from Atlantic City, N.J. “I play a singer who just got out of jail. So she’s a little tough. I think it’ll be fun for me because it’s so interesting to do different things.”

Playing a felon isn’t something that fazes Newton-John. But playing a guitar is.

“I’ve written songs on the piano and guitar, but I’ve never been game enough to play them publicly,” says Newton-John, who will headline a show tonight at the Chicago Theatre. “At the moment, I’m learning to play the guitar better so that I can play the guitar for myself (in the movie).”

After starring opposite John Travolta in “Grease,” Newton-John was crowned America’s sweetheart. Never mind that she was actually English, by way of Australia. With her sun-kissed golden looks and beautiful soprano, she scored hits that showed off her aptitude for country (“If You Love Me (Let Me Know)”), pop (“Physical”), rock (“You’re the One that I Want”) and ballads (“I Honestly Love You”).

Some 26 years after winning a Grammy – and six years after being diagnosed with breast cancer – Newton-John is back on the road promoting her current album, “Back With a Heart.” She also plans to sing all the hits her fans want to hear.

Asked if she’s her daughter’s favorite singer, Newton-John laughs. “I’m just Mom to her,” she says about 13-year-old Chloe, who favors Ricky Martin and Britney Spears. “She did sing with me onstage for the first time in Portland, Ore. It was a special moment for me that was wonderful. She’s just great.”

Newton-John can be seen in the film “It’s My Party,” currently out on video, in which she plays the best friend of a man dying from AIDS.

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