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Olivia Newton-John finds joy in Christmas album with John Travolta


Olivia Newton-John

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Updated: December 9, 2012 6:06AM

As they drove off into the celluloid heavens at the end of the 1978 film “Grease,” Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta sailed off into movie musical history. The soundtrack is among the Top 100 best-sellers of all time, and their duet of “You’re the One That I Want” from that iconic movie is now the best-selling duet in pop music history.

Travolta and Newton-John hope to rekindle that magic in “This Christmas,” their holiday album set for releaseTuesday. The tracks include everything from “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to “Silent Night” and “The Christmas Song.” Special guests along for the ride include Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, Tony Bennett and Cliff Richard..

Perhaps the most anticipated tune (whose total artists’ proceeds will be divided between the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center in Melbourne, Australia, and the Jett Travolta Foundation, named in honor of the actor’s late son), is “I Think You Might Like It,” affectionately termed the “sequel duet.” The uptempo holiday song was penned by songwriter/producer John Farrar, who also wrote “You’re the One That I Want.”

“The whole Christmas idea started when ‘You’re the One That I Want’ was voted the No. 1 duet in history,” Newton-John said. “I sent John a text to tell him the news, and he wrote back and said why don’t we do a Christmas song together? And I said yes. Then we ran into each other at an event several months later and he said, why don’t we do an entire Christmas album? And I said yes, and we decided to do it for our charities, and that was that. We picked the songs in one day. Picked the [music] keys in one day. We met up at a studio in Florida and did the majority of the tracks in four nights. And then we finished it up over the next couple of months.”

For the new duet, Newton-John said the choice of songwriter was easy.

“We approached John [Farrar] and asked if he would write a sequel for the Christmas album, and he did,” she said. Farrar and Newton-John share a rich music history — he also penned her hits “Hopelessly Devoted to You” (also from the film), “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “Magic.”

“He was the only person we asked. We had a lot of fun recording it.”

Working on a music project with Travolta nearly 35 years later rekindled a lot of memories, Newton-John said.

“Sure, it brings it all back,” the 64-year-old singer said. “We’ve shared some amazing experiences over the years. Our bond of friendship is still there. So recording the album was quite nice. John was very hands-on with the production. This meant a great deal to him and he’s quite a perfectionist about music. He put his whole heart into the project.”

Selecting the lineup of songs, Newton-John said, “was a no-brainer.” She and Travolta, along with the album’s producer, Randy Waldman, wanted a mix of traditional carols and holiday standards, songs that also had special meaning for both singers.

“Christmas was my favorite holiday growing up,” she said. “We’d stand around the piano singing all these great songs. I really don’t have one favorite Christmas song because I listen to everything. But I like the standards, the carols. ‘Silent Night’ is definitely one of my favorites. And ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ We had to include it on the album because it’s such a beautiful song. I’m not sure which song is John’s favorite, but he’s just a Christmas nut. [Laughs]. I think the holiday resonates on so many levels for people because it’s all about reunion, about getting together with family and friends. It’s all about nostalgia and remembering our childhoods.”

Asked about the coolest Christmas gift from her childhood, Newton-John quickly recalled a tortoise she received as a very little girl, and how it just disappeared one day. “That was unusual because tortoises don’t walk very far,” she said, laughing.

But her favorite gift ever was the birth of her daughter, Chloe Rose (from her former marriage to Matt Lattanzi), in 1986. “She was a January baby, but I still consider her the greatest Christmas gift I ever got.”

Asked to describe Travolta in one word, Newton-John was more hard-pressed.

“He’s just very intelligent and thoughtful and very caring,” she said. “He’s very sweet and he’s so very funny. One word is impossible.”

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