She’s an Australian legend – a performer whose music career has spanned more than 40 years. Star of stage and screen, a chameleon-like songstress, a Eurovision contestant, actress, multiple Grammy winner and an ARIA Hall Of Fame member. Beyond all that, however, Olivia Newton-John is a mother, a survivor and a humanitarian.
Since a brush with breast cancer almost 20 years ago, it’s been her quest to create and construct the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital. Combining a state of the art research facility, hospital and wellness centre, its completion will most certainly count among Olivia’s proudest achievements. After much sacrifice, there’s now a light on the horizon… just $10 million more is needed to see the facility come to life.
We chatted with the Aussie music superstar and discovered that after more than eight years of fundraising, planning and development, she’s still displaying incredible patience.
“We went through a range of possible hold-ups,” she says. “I’ve been fundraising for about eight years this year. It took two and a half years to plan the Great Wall of China walk and I’d been really involved for at least a year before that, so it’s coming up to eight years this year. So by the time the hospital is actually up and running, it’ll probably be a ten year project.
“I had a vision that it would happen, but I didn’t know how long it would take. That said, when something is as important as this, you just have to hold the vision. Now we just have to raise ten million dollars. I think that will be much easier, because now people can actually see a building. Eight stories of the nine stories are built and it looks incredible.”
“There are very many worthy causes,” she admits. “At the Austin, the cancer centre was in terrible shape, so it was really important to have something new. When you go to have the treatment, it helps if you’re in a nice facility, that it’s attractive and it has light. You feel nurtured and it really helps in the healing.
“Hopefully people won’t need it, but it’s possible that they might or someone close to them might need it and it’ll be a beautiful place to go.
“Convincing people of the importance of having a wellness centre at a hospital has been difficult, because people have never really put those two things together before. But as time’s gone on and I’ve talked more about it, people have started to realise that it’s fast becoming the mainstream.
“They do the chemotherapy and the radiation surgery that’s considered the norm in Western medicine, but then to support patients with wellness therapies is a positive step in the right direction. I’m hoping that one day it will all be a wellness centre because they’ll have found the cure,” she says.
For now, however, the fundraising effort continues. The latest step towards raising the money needed to complete the centre comes in the form of a remix of her 1980 smash ‘Magic’, the lead single from the cult classic film ‘Xanadu’. We ask Olivia how the new version came to be.
“It was the idea of the gentlemen that produced it – DJ Dan Murphy and producer Steve Peach,” she enthuses. “They contacted us about doing a remix of it for the hospital – it’s been a year in the works now. I provided new vocals for it and they did the remix. Everyone’s donated their time on the project and all the proceeds are going to the Cancer & Wellness Centre.
“I don’t know what the potential to raise funds through this is exactly, but I’m open to it. We need to raise ten million dollars. Look, if two million people each gave us five bucks, we’d be done, right?”
We mention the growing fascination with the movie ‘Xanadu’ over recent years and its now almost cult-like following.
“‘Xanadu’ had great music in it,” she says. “The film wasn’t a success at the time, but the music has always been successful and the stage production on Broadway did really well too. As for ‘Magic’ though, it’s a great song, really, isn’t it?”
Since its release on Sunday, the ‘Peachy & Murphy’ mix has rarely been out of the iTunes top 50 and Olivia hints it might not be the only back catalogue tune to be getting the dance remix treatment.
“Well it’s kind of a new thing for me,” Olivia admits. “It’s a whole new world where there are eight different versions of something. It’s very different to the world I grew up in in music where the mix for the record and the mix for the radio were the same. But it’s interesting. It’s very interesting.
“I’m actually going to do an album of some remixes and new songs with my nephew Brett Goldsmith who’s an incredible musician. But there will be some new versions of songs from the past, so yes, it’s kind of inspired me to do a bit more in this area.
“In America I’ve recently re-released ‘Grace And Gratitude’ and called it ‘Grace And Gratitude Renewed’ with a new song on it called ‘Help Me To Heal’. So there’s a new energy around that album and it’s been doing really well as a re-package. But I haven’t worked on a new piece of music for a little while.”
That’s not to say Olivia has been idle – anything but. She recently finished filming a movie entitled ‘A Few Best Men’.
“It’s a movie I did with Stephan Elliot,” she says. “It’s a funny wedding movie, written by the same gentleman who wrote ‘Death At A Funeral’ and it stars Xavier Samuel in the lead role. Tim Draxl and Rebel Wilson are in it too and two wonderful actors from England – Kris Marshall and Kevin Bishop – who are hysterical.”
“Please mention the book, which I don’t think we’ve touched on,” she implores us. “It’s called ‘Liv Wise’. It’s available at all good bookstores and the money goes straight to the hospital.”
Consider it done.
From an outsiders perspective, it would appear that Olivia and her team of dedicated supporters are now in the home stretch when it comes to raising funds. A commitment in April from Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and his government to chip in almost $45 million to the project has seen the dream of completing the Cancer & Wellness Centre come one giant step closer.
Now all it will take is for the general public to believe in a little ‘Magic’ and nothing can stand in their way.