Singer and actress Yvonne Elliman will be forever associated with her #1 hit from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, "If I Can't Have You." The monstrous success of this song, written for her by The Bee Gees, has resulted in Elliman being pigeonholed as a disco artist, but this song was an exception. As popular as her hits were, they only hinted at the impressive range and depth of her albums, which featured many of the top musicians of the day and a diverse range of material.
Elliman's musical career began in 1970, when she began performing in London clubs. The combination of her vocal talent and exotic beauty led to her being cast as Mary Magdalene on the smash hit album, Jesus Christ Superstar, which became a global phenomena, thanks in part to Elliman's reading of the ballad, "I Don't Know How To Love Him." She was soon cast in the role for the subsequent Broadway and film versions of the rock opera and was offered a recording contract. Her self-titled debut album, released in 1972, was an impressively diverse affair which also contained "I Don't Know How to Love Him," her first single to hit the U.S. charts the previous year, as well as a striking cover of the Blind Faith song, "Can't Find My Way Home." Her performance in Jesus Christ Superstar led to a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, making Elliman the first Pacific Islander to be nominated for such a prestigious award. The mid 1970s became her most fertile period on the charts, when she scored numerous hits including the seductive "Love Me" and an infectious cover of "Hello Stranger." During the mid-1970s, Eric Clapton recruited Elliman for his own band and she spent three years on the road with the guitar superstar, singing backup vocals on some of his most memorable hits of the era, including "I Shot The Sheriff" and "Lay Down Sally." In June of 1977, Elliman left Clapton's band and recorded her fifth solo album, Night Flight, which was released to great acclaim the following year and spawned three substantial hits, including two #1 smashes.
The huge success of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack has unfortunately resulted in Elliman being remembered as a disco artist, but this song was an exception to the ballads that she specialized in and the diverse musical styles that comprised the vast majority of her recordings.