The Grease Pop Songs Legacy

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John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John - "You're the One That I Want"

John Travolta Olivia Newton-John You're the One That I Want
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John - "You're the One That I Want". Courtesy RSO

"You're the One That I Want" is one of three songs released as singles written specifically for the film version of Grease and not included in the stage musical. This duet between John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John was written and produced by Australian John Farrar, a long-term collaborator with Olivia Newton-John. He previously wrote and produced her #1 pop smash "Have You Never Been Mellow."

The single "You're the One That I Want" was released in advance of the film, and it hit #1 on the pop singles chart the week before the movie was released. It earned a platinum certification for sales. The song also topped the UK pop singles chart and is one of the 10 bestselling songs of all time in the UK.  "You're the One That I Want" remains John Travolta's only #1 pop single. It was the third of five #1 hits for Olivia Newton-John.

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Frankie Valli - "Grease"

Frankie Valli Grease
Frankie Valli - "Grease". Courtesy RSO

After producer Robert Stigwood worked with his long-term clients the Bee Gees on the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, he was eager to work with the Bee Gees' Barry Gibb as a songwriter on his next film project. The Bee Gees were also heavily involved at the time in their starring role in the film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band built around the music of The Beatles. To avoid over-saturation of the market with Bee Gees recordings, legendary Four Seasons lead vocalist Frankie Valli was enlisted to sing this title track for the film Grease.

The style of the song is late 70s disco and R&B. It is completely removed from the 50s sound of music from the original Broadway production of Grease. Nevertheless, audiences did not mind at all. "Grease" soared to #1 on the pop singles chart. It gave Frankie Valli his second #1 as a solo artist and first appearance in the top 10 in three years. Peter Frampton, who also appeared in the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie, plays guitar on "Grease." Barry Gibb can be heard singing backup vocals.

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John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, and the Grease Cast - "Summer Nights"

Grease Cast Summer Nights
Grease Cast - "Summer Nights". Courtesy RSO

"Summer Nights" was written for and included in the Broadway musical production of Grease. It survived the transfer to the film and became a top 5 pop hit single. The song details a summer romance between the film's two main characters played by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Unlike the three other top 10 hits from the film's soundtrack, "Summer Nights" includes multiple cast members as part of the song's chorus.

"Summer Nights" reached #5 on the pop chart in the US, but it went all the way to #1 in the UK spending seven weeks at the top. The American Film Institute listed "Summer Nights" at #70 among their top 100 film songs of all time.

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Olivia Newton-John - "Hopelessly Devoted To You"

Olivia Newton-John Hopelessly Devoted To You
Olivia Newton-John - "Hopelessly Devoted To You". Courtesy RSO

As part of her contract for appearing in the film Grease, Olivia Newton-John was guaranteed a solo recording. The film was half finished before the song was written. It was shot and recorded after the rest of the film was complete. John Farrar wrote and produced "Hopelessly Devoted To You." He also had written and produced "You're the One That I Want" from the movie's soundtrack.

"Hopelessly Devoted To You" was the fourth top 10 pop hit from the Grease soundtrack. It climbed all the way to #3 on the pop chart while also reaching the adult contemporary top 10. Crossing genres, it reached #20 on the country chart. "Hopelessly Devoted To You" earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song and Olivia Newton-John performed it a the Grammy Awards celebration where she earned a nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

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John Travolta and the Grease Cast - "Greased Lightnin'"

Soundtrack Grease
Soundtrack - Grease. Courtesy RSO

"Greased Lightnin'" is most often remembered as the "dirty" song from Grease. It survived from the Broadway production to the more sanitized film. Explicit lyrics remained and the song is an ode to the wonders of a particular car being a vehicle for getting sex. "Greased Lightnin'" ran afoul of radio censors who bleeped out some of the offending words. Despite all of the uproar, the song still managed to peak at #47 in the US and #11 in the UK.

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