Born in New Jersey and raised in Virginia, Judith Kay Newton first picked up the guitar as an adolescent, inspired by the Byrds, Bob Dylan and folk artists like Tom Rush and Ian & Sylvia. By age 13 she was performing professionally (for the extravagant sum of $10), curving her small hand around the wide neck of her nylon-stringed axe and assaying folk and country tunes with her already impressive voice . Before long she'd partnered with some older teen musicians. "I'd written some songs but they weren't very good," she recalls, "so I mostly focused on my singing." She would return to songwriting later, though, with some powerful results.
She, Otha Young and Tom Kealey formed the country-leaning group Silver Spur; they were signed and relocated to Los Angeles in short order, releasing their debut LP on RCA Records in 1975. By the time they moved to Capitol Records a few years later it was as Juice Newton and Silver Spur. In her capacity as a solo artist, she saw action on the charts with songs like "It's a Heartache," "Let's Keep It That Way" and "Sunshine," among others. Meanwhile, the Newton-Young composition "Sweet, Sweet Smile" became a hit for pop icons the Carpenters in 1978.
But it was with 1981's Juice that the singer exploded into the mainstream, thanks to the enormous hits "Angel of the Morning," "Queen of Hearts" and #1 country smash "The Sweetest Thing (I've Ever Known)." Delivering tearful, wall-of-sound pop, sprightly country-rock and everything in between with crystalline tone and infectious energy, Newton brought a sparkling authenticity to an era dominated by artifice. Juice went platinum and became an international monster, "The Sweetest Thing" spent 18 weeks in the Top 40, and Juice Newton earned two Grammy nominations for Best Female Vocalist.
Her 1982 album, Quiet Lies, was certified gold within months and spawned the hits "Love's Been a Little Bit Hard on Me" (which scored Newton another Best Pop Female Vocalist Grammy nomination) and "Break It to Me Gently" (#1 AC, #2 Country, #11 Pop), which landed her a Grammy statuette for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Among the other nominees in that category: Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Rosanne Cash. The disc also featured "Heart of the Night" (#4 AC, #25 Pop). She added a Country Music Award for Best New Female Artist, back-to-back Billboard Female Album Artist of the Year honors and Australian Music Media's #1 International Country Artist win to her trophy cabinet.
The next few years brought such hits as "Tell Her No," "Dirty Looks," "Stranger at My Door," "A Little Love" and "Restless Heart," among others, and afforded Newton the opportunity to explore her rock side. But by 1985 she'd rededicated herself to the country-steeped sound that shaped her as an artist. #1 hits like "You Make Me Want to Make You Mine," "Hurt," Young's "What Can I Do With My Heart" and "Both to Each Other (Friends and Lovers)," a duet with Eddie Rabbitt, aided her dominance of the format. She rounded out the decade with charting singles "Tell Me True," "First Time Caller" and "When Love Comes Around the Bend."
But the business was changing, and she spent much of the '90s on hiatus from music, raising her kids in San Diego, though she toured occasionally. Still, she contributed to an all-star tribute to French chanteuse Edith Piaf and released the albums The Trouble With Angels and American Girl, the latter featuring songs by Newton, Young, Tom Petty and others.
The first years of the 21st Century saw the release of Every Road Leads Back to You and American Girl Vol. II, and Newton demonstrated her continued ability to shine in a new pop landscape by appearing on the 2005 TV special Hit Me Baby One More Time and being voted a viewer favorite.