Peter Allen (10 February 1944 – 18 June 1992) was an Australian songwriter and entertainer. His songs were made popular by many recording artists, including Elkie Brooks, Melissa Manchester and Olivia Newton-John, with one, Arthur's Theme, winning an Academy Award in 1981. In addition to recording many albums, he enjoyed a cabaret and concert career, including appearing at Radio City Music Hall riding a camel. His marriage to Liza Minnelli ended in divorce and his most significant relationship was with Gregory Connell which lasted 15 years.
Peter Allen was born Peter Richard Woolnough in Tenterfield, New South Wales, Australia. He was the grandson of George Woolnough, whom Allen immortalized in his song "Tenterfield Saddler". Allen 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. Mark Herron, the husband of Judy Garland, discovered Allen while he was performing in Hong Kong. He was invited to return with them to London and the United States, where he performed with Garland.
Allen commenced releasing solo recordings in 1971, but throughout his career achieved greater success through his songs being recorded by others. Allen 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 in 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 singles "I Go To Rio" and "The More I See You". Although his recording career in the U.S. never progressed, he performed in Atlantic City and 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.
His most successful album was Bi-Coastal (1980), produced by David Foster and featuring the single "Fly Away" which, in 1981, became his only U.S. chart single, reaching #55 on the Billboard Hot 100.
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 movie Arthur. The song reached number one in the U.S., 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 at 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, at the opening of the Sydney Entertainment Centre, where he unveiled for the first time his Australian "Flag" shirt, and the 1980 Australian Rules Grand Final in Melbourne. His "Up In One Concert" of 1980 was a huge ratings success across the country. When Australia won The America's Cup, 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, Making Every Moment Count, which featured Melissa Manchester and Harry Connick Jr.
One of his songs, I Still Call Australia Home, became popular through its use in television commercials, initially for National Panasonic, and since 1998 for Qantas Airlines. This has since become an unofficial anthem for Australians abroad.
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.
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