Nearly five decades ago, Olivia Newton-John had a sincere confession, a helpless admission of an attraction that can’t go anywhere in her song “I Honestly Love You.” Released in the United States on Newton-John’s 1974 album If You Love Me, Let Me Know, the song became a worldwide pop hit.
It also became her first No. 1 single in the United States and Canada. During the 17th Grammy Awards in 1975, “I Honestly Love You” won both Best Pop Vocal Performance for Female and Record of the Year. It also earned a nomination for Song of the Year.
Today, it remains Newton-John’s signature solo song.
A Classic Bittersweet Song
Written by Jeff Barry and Australian singer-songwriter Peter Allen, “I Honestly Love You” tells the tale of a couple who clearly has a spark and is in love with each other but can’t be together as they both belong with someone. Despite their chemistry, the narrator in the song professes love and moves on.
“If we both were born in another place and time, this moment might be ending in a kiss. But there you are with yours, and here I am with mine. I love you, I honestly love you,” the song goes.
This classic song was originally written from the perspective of a man. “I thought it would be a really sexy song for a guy to sing – ‘I’m not trying to sleep with you,'” Barry explained. “‘I honestly love you.’ No one had ever said that before. And I thought any girl who would hear that would have to say, ‘Well, can we just do it once?'”
Allen was also all set to record the song himself. However, Olivia Newton-John heard a demo of it and really wanted it for herself – to which Allen was hesitant at first. He wanted to keep it for himself as he was working on his album Continental American. Barry had to convince him to let Newton-John record the song since she was one of the most popular singers in the world at that time and more likely to have a hit with it.
Allen eventually agreed, and it proved a smart move; the song became a huge hit and helped launch Allen’s career as a songwriter. Later, Allen recorded his own version, but it’s just not as good as the one Newton-John made.
More than two decades after the song’s release, Newton-John recorded “I Honestly Love You” once again for her 1998 album Back with a Heart. Though it was not as successful as the original release, it peaked at No. 18 on the Adult Contemporary chart while No. 16 on the Country Music Sales chart.
Tune in and listen to Olivia Newton-John’s performance of “I Honestly Love You” in the video below.