Peter Allen (musician)
Peter Allen (born Peter Richard Woolnough; 10 February 1944 – 18 June 1992) was an Australian singer-songwriter, musician and entertainer, known for his flamboyant stage persona and lavish costumes. His songs were made popular by many recording artists, including Elkie Brooks, Melissa Manchester and Olivia Newton-John, with one, "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" by Christopher Cross, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1981. In addition to recording many albums, he enjoyed a cabaret and concert career, including appearing at the Radio City Music Hall riding a camel. His Australian patriotism song "I Still Call Australia Home", has been used extensively in advertising campaigns, and was added to the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry in 2013.
|Birth name||Peter Richard Woolnough|
|Born||10 February 1944|
Tenterfield, New South Wales, Australia
|Died||18 June 1992 48) (aged|
San Diego, California, U.S.
|Labels||Metromedia, A&M Records, Arista, RCA Victor|
|Associated acts||The Allen Brothers|
Allen was the first husband of Liza Minnelli, with the couple divorcing after seven years of marriage; he later came out as gay. He and his long-term partner died from AIDS-related illnesses eight years apart, with Allen becoming one of the first well-known Australians to die from AIDS. Several years after his death, the musical The Boy from Oz was written about his life. It ran on Broadway and earned Hugh Jackman a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
Allen was born Peter Richard Woolnough in Tenterfield, New South Wales, a small Australian country town where his grandfather, George Woolnough, worked as a saddler. He grew up in nearby Armidale, where he lived from about 6 weeks of age until the age of 15. This is also where he first learned piano and dance. His father Dick became a violent alcoholic after returning from World War II. He committed suicide by gunshot when Peter was still young. George never understood or got over this devastating event. Soon after this the family moved to Lismore to live. This tale is told in the song "Tenterfield Saddler".
He began his performing career with Chris Bell as one of the Allen Brothers, who were a popular cabaret and television act in the early 1960s in Australia. He began performing as "Peter Allen" around the same time. Mark Herron, the husband of Judy Garland, discovered Allen while he was performing in Hong Kong.
Allen commenced releasing solo recordings in 1971, but throughout his career achieved greater success through his songs being recorded by others. He scored his biggest success with the song "I Honestly Love You", which he co-wrote with Jeff Barry and which became a major hit in 1974 for Olivia Newton-John. Her single reached number one in the United States and Canada and won two Grammy Awards, for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Newton-John. Allen also co-wrote "Don't Cry Out Loud" with Carole Bayer Sager, popularized by Melissa Manchester in 1978, and "I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love", also co-written with Bayer Sager and popularized by Rita Coolidge in 1979. One of his signature songs, "I Go to Rio", co-written with Adrienne Anderson, was popularized in America by the group Pablo Cruise.
In 1976, Allen released an album, Taught by Experts, which reached number one in Australia, along with the number one single "I Go to Rio" and the Top 10 hit "The More I See You". Although his recording career in the US never progressed, he performed in Atlantic City and at Carnegie Hall. He had three extended sold-out engagements at New York City's Radio City Music Hall, where he became the first male dancer to dance with The Rockettes and rode a camel during "I Go to Rio". This performance was broadcast live and exclusively on subscription television service WHT The Movie Network.
Allen's most successful album was Bi-Coastal (1980), produced by David Foster and featuring the single "Fly Away", which in 1981 became his only US chart single, reaching No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition, Allen co-wrote the Patti LaBelle hit "I Don't Go Shopping", which reached the top 30 on the R&B chart in 1980.
Allen co-wrote the song "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" with Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager and Christopher Cross, for the 1981 film Arthur. The song reached number one in the US and the songwriters won an Academy Award for Best Song. One lyric for the song, "If you get caught between the moon and New York City", was adapted from an earlier song that he and Bayer Sager co-wrote. Allen and Bayer Sager also co-wrote "You and Me (We Wanted It All)", which was recorded by Frank Sinatra. A video of Sinatra singing the song at Carnegie Hall was included as part of the Sinatra: New York package, released in late 2009.
Allen performed on Australian television for many important occasions; in front of Queen Elizabeth II in 1980 at the Sydney Opera House, before Prince Charles and Princess Diana, once in Melbourne and again in Sydney in 1981, at the opening of the Sydney Entertainment Centre in 1983, where he unveiled for the first time his Australian "Flag" shirt, and the 1980 VFL Grand Final in Melbourne. His "Up in One Concert" of 1980 was a big ratings success across the country. When Australia won the America's Cup in 1983, he flew to Perth to sing before an audience of 100,000. In 1988, he opened for Frank Sinatra at Sanctuary Cove, Queensland. In America, he appeared at the 30th anniversary of Disneyland. He returned to recording on Arista with an album entitled Not the Boy Next Door (1983). In 1990, he recorded his final album on RCA Victor, Making Every Moment Count, which featured Melissa Manchester and Harry Connick, Jr. The song "Making Every Moment Count", a duet with Manchester, was co-written by Seth Swirsky, who also produced a number of songs he co-wrote with Allen, including Allen's last-released single, "Tonight You Made My Day".
He made his Broadway debut on 12 January 1971, in Soon, a rock opera that opened at the Ritz Theatre and ran for three performances. He starred in his own one-man revue on Broadway at the Biltmore Theatre, Up in One: More Than a Concert (1979), which ran for 46 performances.
Allen recorded a live album called Captured Live at Carnegie Hall where songs from his musical Legs Diamond, were previewed. Legs Diamond opened on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on 26 December 1988, with a book co-written by Harvey Fierstein. The musical ran for 64 performances and 72 previews. After Legs Diamond closed he returned to concert work, touring with Bernadette Peters during the summer of 1989. Peter and Bernadette also performed in the early 1980s on the Academy Award broadcast in an extended musical tribute to Irving Berlin.
- He appeared in a cameo role in the film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978).
- His live version of "Everything Old is New Again" can be heard on the soundtrack of the film All That Jazz (1979).
- He was the musical guest at Miss Universe 1981.
- He appeared in the 1982 television version of The Pirates of Penzance (as the Pirate King).
- He appeared as the "man in studio" in the TV series Miami Vice's second-season premiere episode "The Prodigal Son".
- He also did a pilot for a new Name That Tune show in 1990, and the pilot for what became CBS's short-lived prime-time game show The Hollywood Game (both projects were produced by Marty Pasetta). He died the day the series, which ended up being hosted by Bob Goen due to Allen's illness, debuted. (citation: The Boy from Oz by Stephen MacLean, 1996)
On 26 November 2005 an extension of the Tenterfield Library was opened and named the "George Woolnough Wing".
Allen married Liza Minnelli in 1967; they were divorced in 1974.
Becoming more comfortable with his homosexuality from the 1970s to 1984, Allen had a long-time partner, Gregory Connell. Connell was a fashion model from Texas who designed the sound and lighting for Allen's shows and sang backup on his rendition of "I Go to Rio". Connell died from an AIDS-related illness in 1984 at their home in California.
Death and legacy
Allen's last performance was on 26 January 1992 in Sydney. He died in San Diego, California, on 18 June 1992 from an AIDS-related throat cancer. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at sea.
A documentary titled The Boy from Oz about Allen was produced after his death, featuring clips from his performances as well as interviews with performers who worked with him.
A stage musical based on his life, also titled The Boy from Oz, opened in Australia in 1998. Using his largely autobiographical songs, the production starred Todd McKenney as Allen and Christina Amphlett of the rock group Divinyls as Judy Garland. In 2003, the musical opened on Broadway, becoming the first Australian musical ever to be performed there. In this production Allen was played by Hugh Jackman, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal in 2004. Jackman performed this role again two years later when the show toured large arenas in Australia under the title The Boy from Oz: Arena Spectacular. A TV mini series, Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door, was broadcast in Australia in 2015 with Joel Jackson playing the adult Allen and Ky Baldwin playing him as a youth. Supporting roles were played by Rebecca Gibney as Marion Woolnough (Allen's mother), Sarah West as Liza Minnelli and Sigrid Thornton as Judy Garland.
In popular culture
During the closing few moments of the final episode of The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, during a video/photo montage, Peter Allen's "Once Before I Go" played in the background
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) — Our Guests at Heartland
|Year||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|1976||Taught by Experts
|1979||I Could Have Been a Sailor
|1983||Not the Boy Next Door
|1990||Making Every Moment Count
|Year||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|1977||It Is Time for Peter Allen
|1985||Captured Live at Carnegie Hall
|Year||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|1982||The Very Best of Peter Allen / The Best
|1992||The Very Best of Peter Allen: The Boy from Down Under
|1993||At His Best
|1998||Singer-Songwriter: The Anthology
|2001||20th Century Masters: The Best of Peter Allen
|2006||The Ultimate Peter Allen
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1971||"Honest Queen"||—||—||—||—||—||—||Peter Allen|
|1972||"Just Ask Me I've Been There"||—||—||—||—||—||—||Tenterfield Saddler|
|1975||"I Honestly Love You"||—||—||—||—||—||—||Continental American|
|"She Loves to Hear the Music"||—||—||—||—||—||—||Taught by Experts|
|1976||"The More I See You"||80||108||40||—||—||—|
|"I Go to Rio"||1||—||—||22||27||30|
|1977||"The More I See You" (re-release)||10||—||—||—||—||—|
|1978||"Don't Cry Out Loud"||—||—||—||—||—||—||I Could Have Been a Sailor|
|1979||"Don't Wish Too Hard"||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"I Could Have Been a Sailor"||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1980||"I Still Call Australia Home"||60||—||—||—||—||—||Bi-Coastal|
|"One Step Over the Borderline"||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1983||"Not the Boy Next Door"||76||—||—||—||—||—||Not the Boy Next Door|
|"You Haven't Heard the Last of Me"||—||—||15||—||—||—|
|"Once Before I Go"||—||—||26||—||—||—|
|1984||"You and Me (We Wanted It All)"||—||—||41||—||—||—|
- The album Tenterfield Saddler did not chart in Australia until January 1980.
- The album Continental American did not chart in Australia until October 1977.
- The album The Ultimate Peter Allen reached its peak position in Australia in September 2015.
- The single "Tenterfield Saddler" reached its peak position in Australia in September 2015.
- The single "I Still Call Australia Home" reached its peak position in Australia in September 2015.
- "The complete list". National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
- Service Record
- He then became a Goodwill Ambassador for Radio City Music Hall. Peter Allen allmusic.com, accessed 2 December 2008
- Wometco Home Theater/Peter Allen and the Rockettes TV Commercial on YouTube
- Peter Allen - Topic (11 October 2014), Making Every Moment Count, retrieved 9 January 2017
- Duncan Macleod. "Qantas I Still Call Australia Home". The Inspiration Room Daily. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
- McIntyre, Paul. "It's all aboard for a Qantas jumbo", The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2004
- Cudd, Bruce."Remembering Peter Allen" Archived 7 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine, gmhc.org, 2003
- "Miss Universe 1981 Judges & Guest stars". bellezavenezolana.net. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
- "Taught By Experts" LP back cover.
- Lucy E. Cross. "Peter Allen". Masterworks Broadway. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
- Lambert, Bruce (19 June 1992). "Peter Allen, Concert Entertainer And Songwriter, Is Dead at 48". The New York Times.
- The Boy From Oz listing amazon.com, accessed 2 December 2008
- David Kent (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970 - 1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "Peter Allen - Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Discography Peter Allen". Hung Medien. australian-charts.com. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- David Kent (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "I Still Call Australia Home": Ryan, Gavin (19 September 2015). "ARIA Singles: Justin Bieber 'What Do You Mean' Keeps Top Spot". Noise11. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
- "Tenterfield Saddler": Ryan, Gavin (26 September 2015). "ARIA Singles: Justin Bieber Maintains Top Spot After Four Weeks". Noise11. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
- "Peter Allen – Chart history - Billboard". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Peter Allen New Zealand Singles". charts.nz. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Peter Allen search results". Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Peter Allen Belgian Singles". ultratop.be. ULTRATOP & Hung Medien / hitparade.ch. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- David Smith and Neal Peters, Peter Allen: Between The Moon and New York City (Delilah Press, 1983; ISBN 0-933328-57-5)
- Stephen Maclean, Peter Allen: The Boy From Oz (Random House Australia, 1995; ISBN 0-09-183052-4)
- Frank Van Straten, Not the Boy Next Door (Live Performance Australia-Hall of Fame, 2007)