Saturday, October 5, 1974

Olivia Newton-John hit #1 with “I Honestly Love You”

First posted 10/24/2020.

I Honestly Love You

Olivia Newton-John

Writer(s): Peter Allen, Jeff Barry (see lyrics here)


First Charted: August 3, 1974


Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 12 HR, 16 RR, 13 AC, 6 CW, 22 UK, 11 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 4.0 radio, 4.5 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Jeff Barry made a name for himself co-writing songs like the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Shangri-La’s “Leader of the Pack,” as well as #1 hits for the Dixie Cups, Manfred Mann, and the Archies. He set to produce Peter Allen’s first album for A&M Records. Allen had already written some tunes, but Barry didn’t hear any hits. He had an idea for a song which the two then wrote together and then they made a demo. BR1

The demo was just intended for themselves, but it made its way to John Farrar, the producer for Olivia Newton-John. He’d been a member of the Shadows but took up songwriting and arranging for Olivia. SF He played the song for her and she loved it. In her 2019 memoir Don’t Stop Believin’, she recalled thinking “that everyone would be able to make those words fit in their own personal story of love and perhaps even loss.” SF She told Billboard magazine “I flipped out when I heard it…I was terrified that I would find out it had already been done.” BR1 Barry convinced Allen to let her record it since she was one of the world’s most popular singers. SF

It proved a savvy move which helped launch Allen’s career as a songwriter, SF although he did release a version on his Continental American album which came out at the end of the year. WK She recorded the song in just three takes with vocals which were, at times, “almost a whisper,” as she said. SF Surprisingly, the label didn’t originally intend to release Olivia’s version as a single until radio demand pushed them to decide otherwise. BR1

Radio stations in Denver and Chicago ranked it the song of the year. WK VH1 ranked the song at #11 on its list of soft-rock songs. It also makes the DMDB’s list of the top 100 adult contemporary songs of all time. It won Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female.


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Olivia Newton-John
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 378.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

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