1971 Olivia Newton John – If Not For You
Bob Dylan wrote a love song for his first wife, Sara Dylan. He recorded the song If Not For You several times in 1970, including one session in New York with George Harrison on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, and studio musician Russ Kunkel on drums.
Bob recorded the song a few more times before he was happy enough with one of the sessions to put it on his next album. He released the song as a single in Europe, and it became a top ten record in several countries.
After working on Bob’s recording, which was not released at that time, George went back to England and recorded his own version of the song featuring a prominent slide guitar. In 1970, he included the recording on his first post-Beatles album, All Things Must Pass.
Olivia recorded a single in 1971 that did an excellent job of following George’s arrangement of the song.
Olivia’s single reached #7 in the UK. It peaked at #25 on the US Hot 100 but also spent three weeks at the top of the US Adult Contemporary chart. Her success in the US was short-lived, however, and she would spend two years fighting to get back onto the Hot 100.
Her third UK album spawned the single Let Me Be There. They released the record in September 1973, but pop stations initially ignored it. Somebody with enough sense to understand why suggested they release the single as a Country record. That was enough to get the record some airplay, and it rapidly climbed the Country charts and spread to both pop and easy listening stations. By the end of 1973, it reached #7 on the Country chart, #6 on the Hot 100, and #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
Controversy arose after Olivia won the 1973 Grammy award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female for her single. Many traditional Country artists resented her win, but the next year her single I Honestly Love You won Record of the Year and Best Pop Performance, Female. Olivia went on to have a half-dozen more top ten hits on the Country chart before her music took on a less Country feel.
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