Yvonne Elliman had a brief moment in the spotlight during the middle of
the '70s, yet she appeared on many of the decade's biggest hits as a backing singer. While she
was in high school in Hawaii, she sang in a group called We Folk. She moved to London in
1969 and began singing at the Pheasantry folk club, located on Kings Road in Chelsea. It was
here that songwriters Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice discovered her. The duo offered
her the role of Mary Magdalene in their new rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar; the role
brought her instant fame. Elliman played the Magdalene character in the film version of
Superstar, for which she won a Golden Globe award; it also gave her a hit with "I Don't Know
How to Love Him." The hit single became the title of her debut album, which was released in
Pete Townshend helped Elliman prepare her second album, 1973's Food of Love.
During this time, she appeared in the American production of Jesus Christ Superstar on
Broadway, where she met Bill Oakes, the president of RSO Records; the two married soon
afterwards. Oakes introduced her to Eric Clapton, inviting her to sing backup vocals on "I
Shot the Sheriff." Elliman became part of the guitarist's band afterwards; she stayed with him
for five years.
She joined RSO's roster in 1975, releasing the Steve Cropper-produced Rising Sun. Barry
Gibb and Robin Gibb wrote the title song for Elliman's next album, 1976's Love Me; the song
became a U.K. hit, paving the way for her greatest chart success, the Saturday Night Fever
soundtrack. The Bee Gees wrote several songs on the soundtrack specifically for Elliman,
including the number one single "If I Can't Have You." She never followed through on the
song's success -- she released two more albums before becoming solely a session musician.
-- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All-Music Guide