Peter Allen (musician)

For other people named Peter Allen, see Peter Allen.
Peter Allen

Allen performing at the opening of the Sydney Entertainment Centre, 1 May 1983
Background information
Birth name Peter Richard Woolnough
Born (1944-02-10)10 February 1944
Tenterfield, New South Wales, Australia
Died 18 June 1992(1992-06-18) (aged 48)
San Diego, California, U.S.
Genres Pop
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1968–1992
Labels A&M Records
Notable instruments
Vocals, piano

Peter Allen (born Peter Richard Woolnough; 10 February 1944 – 18 June 1992) was an Australian singer-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 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 song "I Still Call Australia Home", used extensively in advertising campaigns, was added to the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry in 2013.[1]

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, Gregory Connell, 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 and Chris Bell as the Allen Brothers, 1967

Peter Allen was born Peter Richard Woolnough in Tenterfield, New South Wales, Australia. He was the grandson of George Woolnough, whom Allen immortalised in his 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. 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 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".[2] This performance was broadcast live and exclusively on subscription television service WHT The Movie Network.[3]

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".[4]

One of his songs, '"I Still Call Australia Home", became popular through its use in television commercials, initially for National Panasonic and, since 1987, for Qantas airline.[5][6]


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.[7] Peter and Bernadette also performed in the early 1980s on the Academy Award broadcast in an extended musical tribute to Irving Berlin.

Other work

Personal life

Allen was born 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.[9] 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". 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.[2]

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".[10] Connell died from an AIDS-related illness in 1984 at their home in California.[11]

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.[12] He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at sea.

A Motor Inn situated on the right side of Tenterfield's main street is named in his honour.

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.[13]

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 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.



Studio albums

Year Album details Peak chart positions
1971 Peter Allen
1972 Tenterfield Saddler
  • Label: Metromedia
95[upper-alpha 1]
1974 Continental American 87[upper-alpha 2]
1976 Taught by Experts
  • Label: A&M
1979 I Could Have Been a Sailor
  • Label: A&M
69 171
1980 Bi-Coastal
  • Label: A&M
55 123
1983 Not the Boy Next Door 36 170
1990 Making Every Moment Count

Live albums

Year Album details Peak chart positions
1977 It Is Time for Peter Allen
  • Label: A&M
1985 Captured Live at Carnegie Hall
  • Label: Arista Records

Compilation albums

Year Album details Peak chart positions
1982 The Very Best of Peter Allen / The Best
  • Label: A&M
1992 The Very Best of Peter Allen: The Boy from Down Under
  • Label: A&M
1993 At His Best
  • Label: A&M
1998 Singer-Songwriter: The Anthology
  • Label: A&M
2001 20th Century Masters: The Best of Peter Allen
  • Label: A&M
2006 The Ultimate Peter Allen 18[upper-alpha 3]


Year Single Peak chart positions Album

1971 "Honest Queen" Peter Allen
1972 "Just Ask Me I've Been There" Tenterfield Saddler
"Tenterfield Saddler" 53 [upper-alpha 4]
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 [upper-alpha 5] Bi-Coastal
"Bi-Coastal" 78
1981 "Fly Away" 55 45
"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


  1. The album Tenterfield Saddler did not chart in Australia until January 1980.
  2. The album Continental American did not chart in Australia until October 1977.
  3. The album The Ultimate Peter Allen reached its peak position in Australia in September 2015.
  4. The single "Tenterfield Saddler" reached its peak position in Australia in September 2015.
  5. The single "I Still Call Australia Home" reached its peak position in Australia in September 2015.


  1. "The complete list". National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  2. 1 2 He then became a Goodwill Ambassador for Radio City Music Hall. Peter Allen, accessed 2 December 2008
  3. Wometco Home Theater/Peter Allen and the Rockettes TV Commercial on YouTube
  4. "". Retrieved 23 August 2015. External link in |title= (help)
  5. Duncan Macleod. "Qantas I Still Call Australia Home". The Inspiration Room Daily. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  6. McIntyre, Paul. "It's all aboard for a Qantas jumbo", The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2004
  7. Cudd, Bruce."Remembering Peter Allen",, 2003
  8. "Miss Universe 1981 Judges & Guest stars". Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  9. Service Record
  10. "Taught By Experts" LP back cover.
  11. Lucy E. Cross. "Peter Allen". Masterworks Broadway. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  12. Lambert, Bruce (19 June 1992). "Peter Allen, Concert Entertainer And Songwriter, Is Dead at 48". The New York Times.
  13. The Boy From Oz listing, accessed 2 December 2008
  14. 1 2 3 David Kent (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970 - 1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  15. "Peter Allen - Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  16. "Discography Peter Allen". Hung Medien. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  17. David Kent (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  18. 1 2 "Peter Allen – Chart history - Billboard". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  19. "Peter Allen New Zealand Singles". Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  20. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Peter Allen search results". Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  21. allen&artist_search=starts&title=&title_search=starts "Peter Allen Belgian Singles" Check |url= value (help). ULTRATOP & Hung Medien / Retrieved 2015-09-03.
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