How Olivia Newton-John Became an Important Figure in Country Music

by Megan Molseed

Olivia Newton-John’s legacy will continue on through the ages, through multiple genres, no doubt. The beloved singer and actress has certainly left her mark on the music world and in film through a variety of unforgettable projects.

From her iconic 1980s workout extraordinaire Physical or her legendary 80s classic Magic to her turn as Sandra Dee in the massively iconic and unforgettable film version of the hit musical Grease, Olivia Newton-John isn’t a woman any of us will soon forget. However, one genre the late singer and actress had a major impact on is one that sometimes gets overlooked…the country music scene.

This impact is clear while looking at some of the tributes posted recently honoring the late icon. One such tribute was touching, coming from country music legend Wynonna Judd.

“Her sweet spirit filled the room when she walked into the theater the day I met her,” Judd says of Olivia Newton-John.

“What a kind & beautiful woman,” the singer writes, adding a yellow heart emoji and a touching #RIP hashtag.

Much Of Olivia Newton-John’s Roots Are Firmly Planted In The Country Music Genre

Sure, Olivia Newton-John’s most recognizable moments in the spotlight plant her firmly within the most well-known pop-star categories. Or even the musical category if we bring up her iconic Grease role with which she starred opposite John Travolta. However, tracing back to some of her other most memorable moments in music, fans will find Olivia Newton-John was a formidable artist within the country music scene as well.

In 1974, Olivia Newton-John signed onto EMI Records and released the album Long Live Love. However, when it hit the US not long after this, the album was renamed If You Love Me, Let Me Know. The title track soon found traction on the pop charts with a #5 spot. However, it went full-country finding a #2 spot on the country music charts at the same time.

“When I heard Let Me Be There in 1973 I fell in love with that song by @therealonj,” writes country music icon Tanya Tucker in a tribute to the actress and singer following news of her death.

“So sad to hear about her passing. She was fabulous,” Tanya Tucker writes in her Instagram post. “I hate cancer and how it’s destroyed some of my best friends.”

In 1974, Olivia Newton-John won the Country Music Association Award (CMA) for Female Vocalist of the Year. She was among only three other women who had won the award up until then. Olivia Newton-John joined the ranks of Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Lynn Anderson by winning the award.

Olivia Newton-John’s Country Music Success Came At A Price

The public was loving Olivia Newton-John’s country album. However, some big names in the industry weren’t too pleased with the direction of country music at that time. The success of this British-born crooner made some wonder what this meant for the genre going forward. However, Olivia Newton-John also had massive support from others in the industry.

And, ultimately, the direction of country music toward different sounds such as Newton-Johns, opened up an entirely new world within the genre. It wouldn’t be long before even more songs began to find traction across genres. Bringing unlikely fans into the world of country music. And, of course, the actress and singer’s career soared following her release with some of music’s most classic hits. As well as a massively successful acting career, of course.