Legends & Legacies View More

Peter Allen, Soft-Rock Superman

Published: 6/18/2012

Twenty years after his death, Peter Allen may not be a household name… but his songs are instantly recognizable to generations of music fans and moviegoers.

Australian entertainer Peter Allen, and his bride, Liza Minnelli, pose as they wait in a limousine following their wedding in New York, March 3, 1967. (AP Photo)

Australian entertainer Peter Allen, and his bride, Liza Minnelli in New York, March 1967. The two divorced after seven years of marriage, and Allen later came out as gay. (AP Photo)

Though Allen was a recording artist, he found his greatest success as a songwriter. Both on his own and in collaboration with songwriting greats like Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, Allen gave us some of our favorite soft rock hits of the 1970s and '80s. The three songwriters, along with Christopher Cross, won an Oscar for their theme song to the hit Dudley Moore movie Arthur.

Allen's songs helped win awards for others, too. "I Honestly Love You," co-written by Allen and Jeff Barry, became a No. 1 hit when Olivia Newton-John recorded it, and it won her Grammy Awards for record of the year and best female pop vocal performance.

But Allen didn't find success solely through writing for others. His recording of "Fly Away" made it to the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980.

On 18 June 1992 Allen died of AIDS-related illnesses, becoming one of the first well-known Australians to die from HIV/AIDS. But all these years later, Allen's legacy endures. In 2013 the National Film and Sound Archives added his song "I Still Call Australia Home" to its Sounds of Australia collection. And in 2003, more than a decade after his death, Allen made it to Broadway, when the jukebox musical The Boy From Oz (first staged in Sydney in 1998) made its American debut. Fellow Australian Hugh Jackman a Tony Award for his portrayal of Allen.

Written by Linnea Crowther. Find her on Google+.

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