The Story Behind Olivia Newton-John’s Favorite Song “I Honestly Love You”

In the early 1970s, Jeff Barry, songwriter behind The Ronettes’ classic “Be My Baby,” The Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Then He Kissed Me,” “The Chapel of Love” by The Dixie Cups, and many more ’60s pop hits, co-wrote a song called “I Honestly Love You” with Australian singer and songwriter Peter Allen.

Though Allen wanted to record the song himself, a demo of the song made its way to Olivia Newton-John”s manager and longtime co-writer John Farrar.

Listening to the lyrics of the song, Newton-John immediately fell in love with “I Honestly Love You” and wanted to record it.

“My heart stopped when I heard the lyrics ‘I love you, I honestly love you,’ said Newton-John in her 2019 memoir, Don’t Stop Believin’. “It was so simple, with a meaning that was deeper than the ocean. Those words made me stop and think because they touched me. I could certainly relate, and I knew that everyone would be able to make those words fit their own personal story of love and perhaps even loss. Just putting the word ‘honestly’ into the mix made it even more poignant. No lies. No denying it. I honestly love you.”

Once released by Newton-John on her 1974 album If You Love Me, Let Me Know, the song became a hit and helped Allen’s career as a songwriter; he went on to to win an Oscar for Best Original Song for “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” from the 1981 Dudley Moore comedy Arthur.

The ballad also marked Newton-John’s first No. 1 in the U.S., topping the Billboard Hot 100. It also topped the Adult Contemporary chart and peaked at No. 6 on the Country chart, and won two Grammy awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.

Prior to “I Honestly Love You,” Newton-John had two other country hits with her Grammy-winning song, “Let Me Be There,” in 1973 and the title track of If You Love Me, Let Me Know, which hit No. 2.

[RELATED: 13 Songs You Didn’t Know Were Written by Olivia Newton-John]

The Meaning
“I Honestly Love You” is the story of two people who meet at the wrong time in their lives.

I’m not trying to make you feel uncomfortable
I’m not trying to make you anything at all
But this feeling doesn’t come along every day
And I shouldn’t blow my chance
When you’ve got the chance to say

If we both were born in another place in time
This moment might be ending with a kiss
There you are with yours and here I am with mine
So, I guess, we’ll just be leaving it at this

I love you
I honestly love you
I honestly love you

Olivia’s Favorite Song
Over her Grease classics and her biggest hit “Physical,” Newton-John admitted that within her catalog “I Honestly Love You” is her all-time favorite song.

“It’s such a special song, and I have some very profound memories of times that I’ve sung it, very intimate times, with special people in my life,” said Newton-John in 2008. “And all through my life, it’s meant something different to me, and every time I sing it it has a different resonance.”

Throughout her career, Newton-John often closed her shows with the “I Honestly Love You.” Though Newton-John made a handful of rare live performances and charitable appearances in her final years, the last time she performed “I Honestly Love You” live before her death in 2022 was on April 25, 2018 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, California.

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