Two of our Australian musical stars fade within a week, two beautiful voices, Judith and Olivia, silenced forever. The carnival is over. We will never find another you and we honestly love you. Their songs, lyrics now appropriate to express our loss, will live on.
Farewell beautiful voices, Judith Durham and Olivia Newton-John. Your legacy and voices will not be forgotten , world-wide and especially in Australia, where you entered the industry as bright young talents. For six decades, you entertained and inspired us. The world will miss you.
Judith was the lead singer and only female in the Seekers’ soft pop group who thrilled the world through the 1960s. In 1964, the year they moved to Britain, the Seekers eclipsed the Beatles in the charts in UK and Australia.
Judith had only joined the year before. She was still a teenager and unsure of her direction. Trained as a classical pianist, she surprised everyone with her untrained voice. Its bell like tone was clear and beautiful.
Together, The Seekers clocked up sales of over 50 million records, three top 20 singles and two top 20 albums.
Judith sang the songs chosen or written by the ‘boys’ of The Seekers, Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley, and Athol Guy. The four seemed a match made in heaven, as the combination of harmonies sounded heavenly.
But Judith felt otherwise and shocked the boys and the world when she announced she was leaving the Seekers to go solo in 1968. This was just one year after the Seekers were named Australians of the Year.
The group ‘never found another’ Judith and faded in their stardom. Judith turned to her favoured blue ballads and toured the circuits with some success. But as separate entities, the Seekers boys and Judith were never the stars they had been as a unified group.
A series of comeback concerts over the next thirty years proved they had not lost their magic, and the fans flocked to concerts to tell them so.
Like Olivia Newton-John, Judith overcame illness and tragic losses. She suffered from a chronic lung disease for many years and lost her husband ,Ron Edgeworth, to motor neuron disease in 1994. Last week, her lungs which propelled that magical voice breathed their last. Vale, Farewell, Judith.
Olivia Newton John
Olivia, Australia’s Livvy, never stopped singing with her beautiful voice, until this week. She was an Australian icon, a national treasure, like Judith, a bright star in the music world. A pretty pop star of the 1970s, she had a softer voice than Judith and sang solo, not as part of a group.
Though she sang briefly in a duo, ‘Pat and Olivia’ in the late 1960s. Her first single was ‘Say You’ll Be Mine’ recorded in UK in 1966 after she won a trip there in an Australian contest. Olivia was unknown internationally until 1973 when she won a Grammy for ‘Let me be There’ It was one of four Grammies she would win.
In the 1970s and 80s she went from strength to strength winning awards and outranking many famous artists in the top music charts. Her songs scored seven consecutive number ones in the charts.
Grease, the Musical
Encouraged by fellow Australian, Helen Reddy, another beautiful voice, she moved to the USA. Here, her career soared to new heights. Olivia is probably most famous for her role as Sandy in Grease, the 1978 musical, opposite the adorable young John Travolta.
Who can forget Olivia’s transformation at the end of the musical from wholesome girl next door, Sandy, to the spandex in heels vamp, singing ‘You’re the One that I want, whoo hoo!’? This song became one of the world’s best-selling singles and the soundtrack is still a best seller for its fun and energy.
Xanadu and Physical
After Grease, Olivia starred with Gene Kelly in ‘Xanadu’, a fantasy musical. The songs from this film scored five top 20 singles, among them ‘Magic.’ By this time, the early 1980s Olivia and her beautiful voice were pure magic. Her next album, ‘Physical’, was the most successful and a breakaway from her usual tender ballads. She won her fourth Grammy for her ‘Olivia in Concert’ special tour. Olivia married long time boyfriend, Matt Lattanzi, and they had a daughter, Chloe.
Beautiful Voice for Advocacy
However, Olivia’s life hit a detour. In 1992, she received a diagnosis of breast cancer. This unexpected crisis would determine the direction of the rest of her life, and ultimately claim her life. Olivia used her beautiful singing voice to raise awareness of cancer through healing CDs like ‘Grace and Gratitude’ and ‘Stronger Than Before’ and her everyday voice to raise funds and advocacy through charities. Her activism was for cancer sufferers but also for the environment.
Despite battling cancer, she continued touring, recording and living in the USA. She remarried after her next long-term partner disappeared at sea. Through remission, she powered ahead with many singing and charity projects.
She established a cancer medical centre in Melbourne in her name and received entry to Australia’s Hall of Fame, a star on Hollywood Boulevard, and was gifted the title Dame for her services to the British Empire as an entertainer and philanthropist.
Throughout her amazing life, Olivia used her voice to entertain and help others. She raised her beautiful voice for good and will be remembered for her beauty, humanity, and grace. Farewell Olivia.
Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The last Hotel. She co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.
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