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Peter Allen (10 February 1944 – 18 June 1992) was an Australian songwriter and entertainer. His songs were made popular by many recording artists, including Melissa Manchester and Olivia Newton-John, Elkie Brooks, and one, Arthur's Theme, won the Academy Award. In addition to recording many albums, he enjoyed a cabaret and concert career, including appearing at Radio City Music Hallmarker riding a camel. His marriage to Liza Minnelli ended in divorce.


He was born Peter Richard Woolnough in Tenterfieldmarker, New South Walesmarker, Australia. 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. He wrote "Don't Cry Out Loud," recorded by Melissa Manchester, and "I'd Rather Leave While I'm In Love," recorded by Rita Coolidge. One of his signature songs, "I Go to Rio," was a moderate hit in America for the group Pablo Cruise. 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.

In 1977 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 Citymarker and Carnegie Hallmarker. He had a long engagement at New York City's Radio City Music Hallmarker, where he danced with the Rockettes and rode a camel during "I Go to Rio."

His most successful album was Bi-Coastal, (1980) produced by David Foster and featuring the top hit "Fly Away," which, in 1981, became his only U.S. chart single, reaching #55 on the Billboard Hot 100.

He co-wrote the song "Arthur's Theme " with Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, and Christopher Cross, for Minnelli's 1980 movie Arthur. Cross's version of the song reached number one in the U.S., and the songwriters won an Academy Award for Best Song. He actually wrote one line for the whole song: "When you get caught between the moon and New York City" from an earlier song that he and Bayer Sager co-wrote.

Allen performed on Australian Television at many important occasions: in front of Queen Elizabeth II in 1980 at The Sydney Opera Housemarker, 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 Australia "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 Perthmarker 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 Disneylandmarker.

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 then after 1988 for Qantas Airlines.

He made his Broadwaymarker 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 Theatremarker, "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 upcoming 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.

Other work
  • 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 to the film All That Jazz (1979).
  • He also did a pilot for a new "Name That Tune" show in 1990, and the pilot for what became CBS's short-lived primetime game show The Hollywood Game. 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)

Personal life

Allen grew up in the small Australian country town, Tenterfieldmarker. His grandfather, George Woolnough, worked as a saddler in the town. His father, Dick become a violent alcoholic upon returning from World War II. He shot and killed himself when Peter was still young. George never understood, nor got over this devastating event. This tale is told in the song, Tenterfield Saddler. On 26 November 2005 an extension of the Tenterfield library was opened and named the "George Woolnough Wing".

He married Liza Minnelli, Garland's daughter in 1967; they were divorced in 1974.

From the 1970s to 1984 Allen had a long-time companion and lover, Gregory Connell. He was a fashion model from Texas who designed the sound and lights for Allen's shows and sang backup on his rendition of "I Go to Rio." Connell died from an AIDS-related illness in September 1984 at their home in California.

Death and legacy

Shortly before his death from an AIDS-related throat cancer, he gave his last performance in Sydney on 26 January 1992. 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, 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 rock group Divinyls as Garland. In 2003, the musical opened on Broadwaymarker, 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".

Due to his limited success as a singer in the U.S., his ten albums are hard to find, with seven issued on CD.


  • Chris and Peter Allen's Album No. 1 (unavailable on CD (1968)
(featuring Chris "Allen Bell")
  • Peter Allen (1971)
  • Tenterfield Saddler (1972)
  • Continental American (1974)
  • Taught By Experts (1976) (not on CD, though most of the songs are on the Singer Songwriter Anthology)
  • It Is Time For Peter Allen (1977) (live album, available on CD as part of the Singer Songwriter Anthology)
  • I Could Have Been a Sailor (1979)
  • Bi-Coastal (1980)
  • Not the Boy Next Door (1983)
  • Captured Live At Carnegie Hall (1985)
  • Making Every Moment Count (1990)
  • At His Best (1993)
  • The Very Best of Peter Allen (1997, also known as The Boy From Oz, 1998)
  • Peter Allen - The Singer Songwriter Anthology (1998, box set)
  • Digitally Remastered Best (1998)
  • The Very Best Of Peter Allen (The Boy From Down Under) (2004)
  • Ultimate (2006)

Song covers

Among those who have covered his songs besides the more famous ones.


  1. Biography at Musician, accessed 2 December 2008
  2. Peter, accessed 2 December 2008
  3. McIntyre, Paul. "It's all aboard for a Qantas jumbo",Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2004
  4. Cudd, Bruce. "Remembering Peter Allen",, 2003
  5. The Boy From Oz, accessed 2 December 2008

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