Following the death on August 8 of much-mourned, four-time Grammy-winning singer and entertainer Olivia Newton-John, she tops Billboard’s Country Digital Song Sales for the first time. Her 1978 ballad hit “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” from the multi-million-selling Grease soundtrack, arrives at the top of that chart, on which she has four other entries from her much-loved and often country-leaning 1970s catalog.
“Hopelessly Devoted To You” – essentially a pop ballad, written and produced by John Farrar but with prominent pedal steel guitar that also brought it a country music audience – reached No.20 on the Billboard country chart in 1978, while it made No.3 pop. The song hit No.1 in several countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, and Ireland, and No.2 in the UK and Australia. Billboard Country Update reports that the song sold 5,000 downloads in the week ending August 11.
Four more of Newton-John’s Top 10 country hits of her heyday also make the new Country Digital Song Sales chart. “Have You Never Been Mellow,” which was No.3 country and a pop No.1 in 1974, is now at No.11; “I Honestly Love You,” another pop No.1 and No.6 country in 1974, is at No.15; “Please Mr. Please” (No.5 country, No.3 pop) makes the digital chart at No.17; and “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” at No.21.
The latter song, also produced as all those mentioned by Farrar and written by his fellow alumnus in British instrumental heroes the Shadows, John Rostill, was Olivia’s biggest country hit, also in 1974, at No.2, reaching No.5 on the Hot 100. All told, Newton-John placed 17 songs on the country singles chart, all but two of them between 1973 and 1979. In addition to the above, she made the country Top 10 with “Let Me Be There” in 1973 and “Let It Shine” and “Come On Over” in 1976.
“Come On Over” was the star’s version of a Barry and Robin Gibb song from the Bee Gees’ 1975 “comeback” album Main Course. It features in our celebration of Barry Gibb’s country roots, which he explored at length for the early 2021, all-star album Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers’ Songbook (Vol.1), on which he and Olivia duetted on “Rest Your Love On Me.”