There comes a time in many artists’ careers when they want to pay tribute to singers and songs that sparked their own creativity. It’s happened with everyone from Linda Ronstadt and Willie Nelson to Rod Stewart, who all recorded classics from the past. Sir Paul McCartney recently announced that he, too, has made an album of pop standards. Now, it’s Olivia Newton-John’s turn.
The British-born, Australian-raised star has released Portraits: A Tribute to the Great Women of Song, a collection of 11 songs by vocalists such as Doris Day, Nina Simone and Joan Baez. Says Newton-John, who has sold over 100 million albums worldwide: “This CD was born out of love and respect for these singers and their songs—it pays tribute to some of the women who inspired, delighted and influenced me in the formative years of my career, or touched my life in some way.”
Clearly, several songs were integral to Newton-John’s early days. She sang “Summertime,” popularized by Ella Fitzgerald, on her first-ever TV appearance at age 15. Similarly “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” originally sung by Cilla Black and Dionne Warwick, was the song she performed at the televised Australian talent show that took her to London in 1966. “Lovin’ You,” she explains, was significant because its singer, Minnie Ripperton, was the first woman she knew to die of breast cancer (a fate she herself narrowly avoided). With Portraits: A Tribute to the Great Women of Song, Newton-John gives thanks to those who touched her heart.