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Click the links for David Lefkowitz’s oeuvre, which he hopes you’ll loeuvre.

FEATURE STORIES:
https://davelefkowitzwriting.wordpress.com/category/feature-stories/

INTERVIEWS & PROFILES
https://davelefkowitzwriting.wordpress.com/category/feature-stories/interviews-profiles/

PLAYS: Full Length:
https://davelefkowitzwriting.wordpress.com/category/full-length-plays/
PLAYS: One-Acts:
https://davelefkowitzwriting.wordpress.com/category/full-length-plays/

POEMS: Humorous:
https://davelefkowitzwriting.wordpress.com/category/poems-humorous/

SONGS:
https://davelefkowitzwriting.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/songs-by-david-lefkowitz/

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
http://wp.me/pzvIo-ac

THEATER REVIEWS:
https://davelefkowitzwriting.wordpress.com/category/theater-reviews/

SONGS INDEX

SONGS

Below please find a list of many of my songs — funny, serious, satirical, dark — with links to their lyrics on this website. Many of these songs were performed on my radio program, Dave’s Gone By, or may be heard on my youtube channel.
For more information, including rights and permissions, please contact me at davesgoneby_at_aol.com.

All songs (c) by David Lefkowitz, unless otherwise noted.

*

ALEPH BAIS (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6b
(a fat-free parody tune from a Rabbi’s perspective when he teaches Bar Mitzvah bochers their Haftorah portions)

ALMOST A SONNET (1981): http://wp.me/pzvIo-O
(a lightly serious love song with a nod to the bard)

AMAGANSETT PRINCESS (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-T
(a fairly serious song about a girl looking for all the wrong things in all the wrong ways)

ANAL DREIDEL (2007, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3y
(Thanks to a new medical procedure, Rabbi Sol Solomon discovers a new toy…and talent)

THE ANTLERS ARE BLOWING IN THE WIND (aka “Moose You Around”) (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-2g
(An absurdly romantic waltz)

THE BAGEL BOAT SONG (1985, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-13
(A “Banana Boat Song” parody, kosher-style, which was performed in the stage play, Shalom Dammit! An Evening with Rabbi Sol Solomon)

THE BALLAD OF PETE TOWNSHEND (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3A
(A tune penned when The Who balladeer was having legal troubles with the interwebs)

THE BALLAD OF TEENY PEENIE (1985, co=author: Scott Rodolitz): http://wp.me/pzvIo-16
(A silly song. Infantile even)

BAXTER HOLVOE’S VOLVO SONG (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8v
(A creepily comic ballad for a sociopathic seducer. Ah, love!)

BEFORE THE GOLDRUSH (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-19
(A semi-serious song about the way rock bands rise and crash.)

BEN GAZZARA (1994): http://wp.me/pzvIo-2d
(A deeply earnest lament about missing this fine actor — written many years before he’d actually died)

BETTER DO IT NOW (1984, auths: Scott Rodolitz, Jay Auerfeld, and Kevin Gerber): http://wp.me/pzvIo-9t
(Wish I’d written this catchy, sharp song about Long Island life, but I didn’t. My bandmates did.)

CAPTAIN LIFLANDER’S MADRIGAL (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3C
(A satirical tune about American exceptionalism and weaponry)

CAUGHT (w.t.c.o.h.c.) (1986): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1f
(A thoroughly reprehensible comic song about a young girl’s evening proclivities)

CHANUKAH WISHES (2008): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3E
(A comic song about a Jewish boy’s true hopes for the Chanukah holiday)

CHERRY ON TOP (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1k
(A satirical tune mocking 1980s Long Island youth culture, such as it was)

COMING AND GOING (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1q
(A downright depressing song about friendship and betrayal)

CONSTIPATED (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6T
(A parody song about a poor woman whose stones aren’t rolling)

COVER’D WITH CRAP (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3G
(A comical and aptly disgusting sea shanty)

CRACK OF A WHITE MAN’S ASS (1992): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8t
(A song as anatomical as it is comical)

CRAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN (2008): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3I
(A song parody penned in the midst of the recession)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1u
(A song parody of Joe Cuba’s “Bang Bang” featuring a very bad mother)

DAYENU (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-46
(A Passover parody song that thanks God for…well, something)

DEAD AIR (1985, co-author: Scott Rodolitz): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1A
(A fairly serious tune about the ills of American radio)

DEAD BLOWFISH (2015): http://wp.me/pzvIo-49
(A parody of “Dead Puppies” dedicated, with apologies, to Miley Cyrus’s departed pet)

DEEP IN THE HEART OF DALLAS (2016): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4d
(In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, a darkly satirical song parody of “Deep in the Heart of Texas”)

A DINGO ATE MY BABY (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3t
(A darkly comical number, to be bellowed in a thick Aussie accent)

DO THE ONION (2008): http://wp.me/pzvIo-9f
(A slow, gloomy dance for people who have no interest in dancing)

DO THE PHOENIX (1994): http://wp.me/pzvIo-2j
(A darkly satirical song instructing lucky teens on how they can die just like River Phoenix)

DON’T MESS WITH US (2003, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4h
(A plucky tune, loosely based on an old Yiddish melody, about Jews’ resiliency)

DON’T THINK TWICE, JUST GO (2009): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4m
(A song parody of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” dedicated to GWB)

DRINK TILL I’M DRUNK (2010): http://wp.me/pzvIo-2F
(A jolly Irish song about Irish activities)

ELEPHANT WOMAN WANT GO HOME (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8H
(An a cappella, call-and-response tune perfect for hauling…stuff)

ENEMA BLUES (1978): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5o
(A happily Elvis-ish tune about going with the flow)

EVERY DAY ON THE 5:09 (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1N
(A fairly serious song about enduring life on the Long Island Rail Road)

FLOWERS WEREN’T MEANT TO LAST (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4p
(The plaintive complaint of a singer-songwriter)

FRONTAL LOBOTOMY BLUES (1979 co-author: Scott Rodolitz, revised 2006): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1J
(With apologies to “Mannish Boy,” a sick tune about a sick tot)

FUN IN THE KITCHEN (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5r
(A sick calypso ditty that will not be a hit with PETA)

(I’M HAVING A) GAY CHRISTMAS (2004, co-author: Peter Fitzgerald): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4u
(A pervy nod to alternative holiday celebrations)

GO CIALIS (2014): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4A
(To the tune of “White Rabbit,” this pharmaceutical tribute rocks, um, harder)

HAPPY FOOT SONG
(see listing under MY FOOT)

HERE’S TO THE HIGH SCHOOL (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5t
(A bitter alma mater for bitter alma martyrs)

I KNOW WHAT GOYS LIKE (2012): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4G
(A parody tune, co-written with Rabbi Sol Solomon for his stage show, Shalom, Dammit!)

I WANNA HOLD YOUR STUMP (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5H
(Look ma, a Beatles song parody with no hands!)

I’M ME (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8K
(A jaunty tune celebrating the self)

IS IT GOOD FOR THE JEWS (2004, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4J
(A Yiddishy ditty that asks the age-old question)

IT WAS AN ALL RIGHT DAY (2017, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-70
(a parody of Ice Cube’s “It was a Good Day” from a Jewish perspective.)

IT’S A STIFF (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4M
(a dark song parody, to “Let it Snow,” about a true New York story)

JEOPARDY KEN (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4P
(A song parody, to the Beatles’ “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” written to celebrate “Jeopardy” celeb Ken Jennings)

JOEY, THE SPASTIC KANGAROO (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4R
(A bouncy comic tune about an Aussie animal that bounces too freely)

KILLIN’ THE CANDIDATES (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5J
(A darkly comic look at the trigger happy)

THE KOSHER HOT DOG PICNIC (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-as
(A children’s folk song about–what else?–depravity)

LA-LA LAND (1988): http://wp.me/pzvIo-J
(A song parody of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” written specifically for a “Howard Stern Show” contest)

LADY LIBERTY (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5L
(A playful number about a statuesque lady)

LAMENT #9 (1982): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5P
(If John Lennon heard this song parody, he’d primal scream)

LOOK WHAT THEY DONE TO MY HEAD, MA (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4U
(With apologies to Melanie, a dark song parody for the age of terrorism)

M-O-T-H-E-R (2003): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4Z
(Inspired by moms and Theodore Morse & Howard Johnson’s alphabetical tribute to them)

MADE IN THE USA (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5X
(With apologies to The Boss, a parody song of planned obsolescence)

MAKIN’ POOPIES (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-4W
(A song parody for when you’re in the dumps)

THE MARRIAGE SONG (All You Do is Bitch) (2013): http://wp.me/pzvIo-3w
(A marital song parody of Lennon-McCartney’s “All You Need is Love”)

ME (1988): http://wp.me/pzvIo-20
(A joyfully comical-egocentrical tune)

MEM’RIES OF SCRANTON (1988): http://wp.me/pzvIo-9h
(A country-tinged, comical tune about family travels)

MICHAEL, ROW (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-65
(An environmentally conscious song parody)

MONSTERS OF THE WORLD (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-67
(A political song, both serious and ambivalent. Oh joy.)

MOOSE YOU AROUND (1985):
(see listed under The Antlers are Blowing in the Wind)

THE MOST OFFENSIVE SONG EVER WRITTEN (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7G
(No, really, it’s vile. I dare you…)

MY DOGGY’S CHRISTMAS GIFT (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-51
(A comical tune about how to keep your pet happy during the holidays)

MY FOOT (aka Happy Foot Song) (1990): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7C
(A comical marching tune about our neglected tootsies)

NAPERVILLE (1989): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1V
(A comical tribute to a somewhat underrated Chicago suburb)

THE NIPPLE SONG (1980): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6s
(A celebration of all things nipular)

NIRVANITY (2002): http://wp.me/pzvIo-54
(A parody with all apologies to the late Kurt Cobain)

NOT A FRIEND (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6y
(A serious tune about the limits of platonics)

NOTHING IN THIS WORLD (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6C
(A seriously depressing song about about muddling through the mundane)

OH CUM ALL YOU FAITHFUL
(see listing under THE TWELVE PERVERSIONS OF CHRISTMAS)

OH DAT BEN (2015): http://wp.me/pzvIo-56
(A wry tribute to the early years of presidential candidate Ben Carson)

OH, MY LOVE (1984): http://wp.me/pzvIo-61
(A serious love song from a long time back)

ORGY BOY (1987): http://wp.me/pzvIo-22
(A joyfully depraved comic tune about naughty activities)

OY OY (2015, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-58
(A not-so-traditional Jewish hand-clapping song)

PISHES SWEETER THAN WINE (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5a
(A parody song about the fountain of aging)

THE PITY ME I’M POLISH POLKA (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5d
(Well, at least it’s not an oberek)

PSYCHO BLUES (2006): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1C
(A darkly comic tune about the activities of a psychopath. Not autobiographical)

PUBIC HAIR (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8M
(An ode to our nether feathers)

RABBI PEARL’S LAMENT (aka “The Schvartze Rubbed My Shmekel”) (1987, co-author Jeff Rothstein): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6G
(A comical cautionary tale for a man of soiled cloth)

RABBI SOL SOLOMON’S RABBINICAL REFLECTIONS THEME (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5h
(How the good Rabbi opens his sermons)

RAIN ON THE BORDERLINE (1986): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6K
(A bit of unhappiness, in serious song form)

THE RECTUM OF EDMUND FITZGERALD (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5l
(With apologies to Gordon Lightfoot and a lot of dead sailors, a dark parody tune inspired by a true Long Island travesty)

RING MY BELL (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-94
(A joyful number in Wild Man Fischer style)

SANDY DUNCAN’S EYE (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5x
(a rhythmic and visionary tribute)

SANTA QUITS (2012): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6h
(a mashup piece, in Buchanan & Goodman style, using short samples from other artists).

SANTASIA (2004): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6m
(a not-safe-for-the-north-pole holiday poem about Santa’s depravity)

SEAMUS THE URINE MAN (1998): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6p
(An Irish tune, based on the true story of a Dublin shop owner with a unique bouquet)

SEW BUTTONS (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8Y
(A bit of pure absurdist whimsy, with sprinkle of Wild Man Fischer)

SEX WITH A CHICKEN (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-9R
(A comical song for the bestial years of our lives)

SHAKING LIKE A MONKEY (1992): http://wp.me/pzvIo-1Q
(an absurdly happy comic tune about, well, doing the title)

SHEEP ARE MOIST (1982): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7J
(A comical, country-folk number that became the anthem of the band I was in at the time, The Moist Sheep)

THE SHIT SONG (2012, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6X
(A comic ditty about world religions penned for the stage play, Shalom Dammit! An Evening with Rabbi Sol Solomon)

SNIPER’S LULLABY (2002): http://wp.me/pzvIo-aE
(Written for my radio show, a song–to the tune of “Hobo’s Lullaby”–to celebrate the capture of the Beltway snipers)

SWIMAWAY (2005): http://wp.me/pzvIo-ax
(A parody song inspired by the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, yet another iteration of “Mbube/Wimoweh/The Lion Sleeps Tonight)”

TAKE YOUR UNDEROOS DOWN (The Rolf Harris Song) (2014): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7w
(A Rolf Harris parody…and pillory)

TEN MORAY EELS (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8B
(A strange poetic chant for those who find the little Indians too un-P.C.)

THE SCHVARTZE RUBBED MY SHMEKEL
(see listing under RABBI PEARL’S LAMENT)

THEN YOU’RE JEWISH (2012, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-73
(A comic ditty about modern Jewish life. The song is performed in the first act of the stage play, Shalom Dammit! An Evening with Rabbi Sol Solomon)

THIS ONE’S FOR YOU (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5j
(The second — yes, second — song I wrote about enemas…and hopefully not the last)

THE TRICKLE-DOWN LULLABY (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-2a
(A darkly satirical number about a desperate man. The piece was written with stage directions and can be performed as a brief one-act solo)

THE TWELVE PERVERSIONS OF CHRISTMAS (aka “Oh Cum All Ye Faithful”) (1979, co-author: Scott Rodolitz): http://wp.me/pzvIo-6O
(The melody is traditional the exploits are not)

TUMOR IN MY HEAD (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8a
(A jaunty, non-autobiographical tune)

VEGETABLES ARE BAD FOR YOU (1979): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7L
(A comical country song about mercy killin’. Yee haw)

WAKKA WAKKA BOOM BOOM PIG (2001): http://wp.me/pzvIo-9o
(Penned in Italy and dedicated to the man selling splat pigs there)

WHAT AM I? (1991): http://wp.me/pzvIo-8j
(A joyful song of the self)

THE WHITE JEW BLUES (1985): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7S
(Kind of an “oy is me” song for members of the tribe)

THE WORST SONG EVER WRITTEN (2017): http://wp.me/pzvIo-7y
(A love song utilizing every possible cliche and groaner rhyme. Someone should sing it through a megaphone)

YESHIVA BOY (2011, co-author: Rabbi Sol Solomon): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5U
(A bouncy Bob Seger parody that served as the opening number of Shalom Dammit!)

YOUR MEAT’S TOO BIG (2008): http://wp.me/pzvIo-5A
(In Fats Waller parodies, size matters)

INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

KAREN ALLEN (May 2017):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-aP

VALERIE BERTINELLI (March 2017):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-b0

LORRAINE BRACCO (Nov. 2009):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-2p

DIAHANN CARROLL (Oct. 2008):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-2r

PATTY DUKE (Sept. 2009):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-2x

SUSIE ESSMAN (Dec. 2008):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-2A

JULES FEIFFER (April 2017):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-a8

CARRIE FISHER (Oct. 2009):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-2D

CHRISTOPHER HACKERT (May 2017):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-bk

ALLISON JANNEY (April 2017):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-aV

BILLIE JEAN KING (Jan. 2017):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-b5

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (July 2017):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-aK

THEATER REVIEWS

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG (Broadway, July 2017):
http://wp.me/pzvIo-9X

FEATURE STORIES

July 2017: Sometimes a Grain of Sand – Olivia Newton-John Reflects on Glory and Grief
http://wp.me/pzvIo-aK

May 2017: Karen Allen and the World of Yes
http://wp.me/pzvIo-aP

May 2017: In Bloom – Christopher Hackert Gets his Theatrical Wish
http://wp.me/pzvIo-bk

April 2017: The Ceiling’s the Limit: Jules Feiffer Collaborates on a New Musical
http://wp.me/pzvIo-a8

April 2017: To the Oval Office from the Bunion Derby: Allison Janney’s Slow Rise to Stardom
http://wp.me/pzvIo-aV

March 2017: Spring on Broadway – Old Friends and Oddballs
http://wp.me/pzvIo-ba

March 2017: Valerie Bertinelli – Taking Life one Dish at a Time
http://wp.me/pzvIo-b0

Jan. 2017: Serving Love – Billie Jean King Still Winning for All of Us
http://wp.me/pzvIo-b5

Nov. 2009: Lorraine Bracco on Life as a Post-Doc
http://wp.me/pzvIo-2p

Oct. 2009: Carrie Fisher – She Moves On
http://wp.me/pzvIo-2D

Sept. 2009: Call Her Anna – Patty Duke
http://wp.me/pzvIo-2x

Dec. 2008: Curb Your Ensusiessman: The Comedian Speaks Out on Being Fair – and Foul
http://wp.me/pzvIo-2A

Oct. 2008: Diahann Carroll Looks Back – and Forward
http://wp.me/pzvIo-2r

 REVIEWED: The Play that Goes Wrong, Lyceum Theater, Broadway, 2017.

Wrong Turn

Imagine popping a dvd into your player on movie night, skipping the film entirely, and going straight to the blooper reel. Now imagine that the collection of groaners and gaffes runs longer than the actual movie they’re from. Finally, imagine that the gag reel’s vignettes repeat variations on the same mistake a dozen times over. The result would be about 15 minutes of fun, half an hour of mild amusement, and then a dvd swap for something with an actual story, interesting characters, and more to it than self-congratulatory zaniness.

Such is the fate of The Play that Goes Wrong, a farcical English import now cavorting at Broadway’s Lyceum Theater. Winner of London’s 2015 Olivier Award for best new comedy, the show has been compared to the redoubtable Noises Off in that both works follow the travails of desperate actors muddling through a performance despite every possible mishap befalling them. In the latter, more complex play, we watch calamities occurring both onstage and behind the scenes and from dress rehearsal through near-closing night. In The Play that Goes Wrong, we follow a single performance, by the “Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society,” in which missed cues and mispronounced words are the least of the poor thespians’ problems.

Cute laughs occur even before the start of the play proper, as an audience member is drafted to hold up a continually dropping piece of the set. Then out come lead actor Chris (Henry Shields, who is blessed with a vocal similarity to John Cleese) to introduce the “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” Some of the night’s best laughs occur during his monologue, as he admits that the theater company’s poverty has forced the group to scale down its productions of “Cat” and “The Lion and the Wardrobe.”

So far so good, and it is initially fun to see these youthful Brits scampering about playing amateurs trying to cope with mislaid props, a distracted sound designer (Rob Falconer), and virtually everything and everyone being in the wrong place at the wrong time. To be sure, cleverness is abundant here, but long before the end of its two hours’ traffic, Play’s pleasures diminish, even though the best sightgag—an upstairs floor tilting inexorably towards collapse (with kudos to set designer Nigel Hook)—is saved for the second act.

I may well be in the minority in dismissing the piece; many audience members have a howling good time, and critics both in New York and across the pond have found much to love in Mischief Theatre Company’s mischief. Nevertheless, I tired of the repetitiveness, the pointless intrigues, the screeching. Perhaps I’ve just seen too many real plays go wrong, but after awhile, I just wanted to be the Dave that Goes Home.

*************************

NOTES & BACKSTORY:

This review was published in the July-August 2017 issue of Long Island Pulse magazine: http://lipulse.com/2017/07/06/the-play-that-goes-wrong-review/

SOMETIMES A GRAIN OF SAND: Olivia Newton-John Reflects on Glory and Grief

by David Lefkowitz

(Note: this article was first published in July 2017)

“I’m waking up this morning
Grateful for the gift of one more day
The light of hope is dawning
It fills my heart and lifts my fears away.
Live on, live on.”
– “Live On” (Olivia Newton John)

When songstress Olivia Newton-John comes to mind, we tend not to think of words like grief or pain or endurance. After all, the English-born, Aussie-raised, American-minted beauty came on the music scene nearly fifty years ago with the looks of a Cover Girl model, the persona of the ultimate girl next door, and a voice any girl group would covet. From 1971, when her take on Bob Dylan’s “If not for You” zoomed up the pop and adult contemporary charts, through the early 1980s, when music critic Robert Christgau wrote, “Any heterosexual man who can deny `Physical,’ with its detonating blonde bombshell… needs his monkey-gland shot,” Newton-John led the kind of stars-aligned life of which mere mortals can only dream.

But the actress-singer is 68 now, and a lot can happen when you live long past your thirties. She married actor Matt Lattanzi, but they divorced after only nine years. Their daughter, Chloe, now 31, struggled with anorexia, drug-and-alcohol abuse, and a seeming addiction to plastic surgery. And though Newton-John has been happily married to businessman John Easterling since 2008, her previous partner, John McDermott, disappeared after a fishing trip and has been presumed dead—though reports that he faked his own demise and has been living in Mexico continue to surface. Oh, and let’s not forget The Big C. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, Newton-John underwent chemotherapy and a partial mastectomy. After a decade and a half of being cancer-free, John learned in May that the disease had reappeared. She canceled a planned tour and instead will undergo radiation and “natural wellness therapies.” The news is especially sad because four years ago, her sister Rona succumbed to an aggressive brain tumor.

That last tragedy hit the singer especially hard. “I will miss her forever,” Newton-John then wrote on her Facebook page, “my beautiful, smart, talented, funny, brave sister.” At the time, Olivia was working on a Christmas album, which helped lift her spirits, but she eventually felt the need to reach deeper. The result is her latest musical project, “Liv On” (sic), a collaboration between her, veteran country tunesmith Beth Nielsen Chapman, and Canadian songwriter Amy Sky. All three turned to music as a way of understanding and coping with loss.

In a phone conversation with Newton-John (that occurred before her recent diagnosis), the new album often came to the fore, but she was also willing to share her thoughts about the many events of her life—good and bad—that brought her to this point. We began, of course, with music.

Olivia Newton-John: I’ve always found that music has been my way of healing. So I was writing a song for Rona and about her. I called Amy Sky to ask if she’d help me finish it. We talked about her just losing her mother the year before, and we realized that there really wasn’t music specifically for people going through loss and grief. So I said, “How would you feel about doing an album of these songs?” We talked about it and decided to invite Beth Nielsen Chapman, too. She’s a longtime friend of mine and fellow cancer “thriver.” Also, she was doing quite a lot of music at that time for people who were grieving. (I didn’t even know that; it just happened to be wonderful timing.) She wanted to join us on the record because she had lost her husband, 14 years before, to cancer, and wrote a beautiful, beautiful song called, “Sand and Water” that’s become kind of a classic. Elton John has sung it many times.

“All alone, I heal this heart of sorrow
All alone, I raise this child
Flesh and bone, he’s just
Bursting towards tomorrow
And his laughter fills my world, and wears your smile.”
– “Sand and Water” (Beth Nielsen Chapman)

So we all got together on three occasions and wrote new songs in my kitchen. And we talked about the different stages of grief. Grief is not something discussed in our society very much, but everybody goes through it at some point. We lose a relative or a friend or a pet (which has always been devastating to me). Or we move or we lose a friend or our circumstances change. There’s lots of areas of grief in life. We thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to write some songs that address those things?” So that’s how the album was born, and we’ve been touring it.

Was it cathartic to sing these songs in public and then hear audience members offer their personal experiences with loss?
Yes, of course. That was our intention making it: to bring some people relief and let them know they’re not alone. That song, “Live On,” for instance. I wrote it for my sister and as an inspirational song for my cancer-wellness and research center in Melbourne, Australia. When we did the tour, no one had heard these songs, so it was incredible to hear the wonderful reactions. We also did a Q&A. We didn’t know how that would go, but people raised their hands and wanted to tell us about what they’d gone through. They wanted to share. That’s really healing: when people can share their feelings and know they’re not alone.

Your sister’s death was tragic but a fairly common life experience. Was the grieving process different when you didn’t actually know what happened to John McDermott?
I don’t really like to discuss that because it’s very personal to me. But grief never goes away. We wrote a song on our album called “Stone in My Pocket.” It says that with grief—sometimes you carry it around like a boulder, sometimes it feels like a rock, sometimes it feels like a pebble, and sometimes a grain of sand. But grief is always there, and you learn to deal with it and live with it. All the different stages, and all the different people that you’ve lost are always part of that. Not to be too specific, but I’ve had a lot of grief in my life—as most people have.

Well, on the positive side, between new music, touring, and your philanthropic endeavors, you seem incredibly busy and healthy for someone nearing 70. Do you see that pace continuing for another 10, 20 years?

(laughs heartily) I like your optimism! But I’m very grateful to be here, and I think age is how you feel and not the number you put on it. And music is eternal, so as long as I feel like I wanna sing, and people still show up, I’ll do it. I have a wonderful marriage with a lovely home and animals and things, so I’d like to spend more time at home. But I really enjoy singing, and I get pleasure out of it and give pleasure to the audiences. So I’ll do it as long as it feels right, and when it doesn’t, I won’t.

And having beaten cancer 25 years ago, you must be pretty proactive about your health and diet?
My husband is an expert on homeopathics, so I take a lot of Amazonian herbs. John also has a dear friend who runs a clinic where I do DNA tests twice a year, just checking out my body. I also do a blood test about once a year—things like that. I try to keep my immune system strong, so that even with all the hard work that I do, I stay very healthy.

Does that include avoiding red meat and other “bad” foods?
I’m not totally vegetarian; I go in and out of that. My daughter is a vegan, but my body sometimes craves meat. I’ll go through phases where I don’t eat any, and then my body tells me I need it, so I will eat some. I eat very healthily, but I also enjoy myself. I believe that you have to have fun, and have a cookie or dark chocolate (which is healthy anyway!). Luckily, my indulgences are usually things that are fairly healthy. My mother was German, and she would feed us potatoes with the skins on and steamed vegetables. When I was a young girl, I’d say, “Oh, mom. This is so boring!” But now I’m very grateful to her for teaching me to eat well.

What about exercise?
I do what I can, though I’m often traveling. Plus my show is actually quite “physical”—not to be punny there. I do like to take walks, hike, play with my animals. I have a gym at home, so I’ll do that when I can. I have my own little workout that I put together, and I keep pretty fit. Still, I’d like to get into a yoga class, and I even used to do the hot yoga years ago, but I’m never home long enough to get into a routine. So I do yoga stretches that are very important for the spine as you get older.

It sounds like your health consciousness has been a long-term thing, even though you achieved success in the 1970s-80s, an era of excesses that were the opposite of healthy.
I stayed totally away from that. I went to Studio 54 a few times, and I used to go to clubs, but drugs? I never saw them. I think you find things only if you’re interested in them, and I wasn’t interested. I really wasn’t aware of it.

So maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one suggestion you might give an up-and-comer entering the music business. What are some others?
Finding your own style and not copying anybody else. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful producer and songwriter, John Farrar, who did most of my production. Also, finding great songs is so important. I was very lucky in my career to have John and Steve Kipner and Peter Allen. All Australians writing the majority of my hit songs!

“You never chase your dreams, they find you
Love, I know you; if you need love, it finds you, too
Don’t stop believin’, you’ll get by
Bad days, bad days will hurry by.”
– “Don’t Stop Believin’” (John Farrar)

It’s not as if you faced no setbacks early on. Just before you hit it big, you were part of a Monkees-like group that made one weird movie, Toomorrow, and then disbanded. Since you were only 22 then, was it a devastating blow, or did you simply move onward and upward without much regret?
Well, the group was me and three boys—an Englishman and two Americans—all of us put together by Don Kirshner, who put the Monkees together, and Harry Saltzman, who did the James Bond movies. It sounded great, and we made a movie, and of course it’s disappointing when you have things that don’t work, but that’s the only way you grow. But I was never gonna give up. Of course not! I was still singing and performing. All failures are disappointing for everybody, but you just keep going. One of the songs I do in my show is, “Not Gonna Give in to It.” You learn from a mistake, and you realize later that it was a big lesson.

Do you have any thoughts on the current pop music scene? Any artists who impress you?
I love Adele, Rihanna, Pink. I love a lot of people! (laughs) I was watching the [Grammy salute to the] Bee Gees special the other night, and everybody up there was so gifted. There have always been wonderful artists every era that I’ve witnessed. And now it gets more and more interesting and diverse as different kinds of music integrate together.

You’ve released nearly a dozen albums since 1990, though casual fans might still know only your work from the two prior decades. Are there more recent songs you wish were as widely known as the early hits?
Gosh. I’ve recorded so many songs, but I probably would say songs from the “Liv On” record because it’s the most current thing I’m doing. And the songs “Live On” and “Stone in My Pocket” would be the ones I’d want people to hear now because they’re where I’m at in my music at the moment.

“In every heart of those we touch
In every dream that means so much
Yes, I believe that all of us live on.”
– “Live On” (Olivia Newton-John)

SIDEBAR

OLIVIA ON THE CLASSICS

Let Me Be There
We did that record in England, I think. It was producer Bruce Welch’s idea to put that bass voice on there, which made it very original and clever. It’s a great song, and it started my career in country music—when I wasn’t even aware it was a separate category!

I Honestly Love You
A magnificent, beautiful love song that I’m lucky to still be singing.

Summer Nights
I just think of fun. Fun days filming with the girls. It was great.

Physical
That’s a song I put out and then got panicked because I thought I’d gone too far. But then it was too late—it went to number one so quickly! I tried to counteract it because I thought maybe it was a little too raunchy for me. I said to my manager then, “We need to do a video and try and make it more about exercise!” And that took it to even greater heights, so it kind of makes me laugh now.

Have You Never Been Mellow
That’s a John Farrar song. Classic, beautiful lyric, beautiful melody. I love singing that and still do it in my show.

Live On
A positive reinforcement of life.

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BYLINE:
David Lefkowitz is an adjunct professor of English at the University of Northern Colorado. He also co-publishes Performing Arts Insider (TotalTheater.com) and hosts Dave’s Gone By (davesgoneby.com) on UNC Radio. His short comedy, Blind Date, recently played at the Alliance Francaise in Chennai, India.