Olivia Newton-John, the Australian singer, died on Monday. She was 73 years old. According to her husband’s statement, she passed away after a long and hard-fought battle with cancer.
“Dame Olivia Newton-John passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends. We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time,” her husband, John Easterling, wrote in a statement on the singer’s verified Instagram account. “Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer.”
In September of 2018, the singer revealed that she was being treated for cancer at the base of her spine. This was her third cancer diagnosis, following bouts with breast cancer in the early ’90s and in 2017.
Her rise to fame
Thanks to a few popular country and soft-rock songs, Newton-John was already well-known by the late 1970s. But her co-starring role opposite John Travolta in 1978’s “Grease,” one of the most popular movie musicals of all time, elevated her to a whole new level of fame.
Although she had little acting experience (and was 29 years old during filming), Newton-John gave an unforgettable performance as Sandy, a sweet-natured Australian transfer student who falls in love with Travolta’s alpha greaser Danny at a Southern California high school in the 1950s.
Their chemistry onscreen was great. They looked like they didn’t belong together at first, but in the end they changed to look more like each other and won each other’s hearts. Many people watched it multiple times.
“I don’t think anyone could have imagined a movie would go on almost 40 years and would still be popular and people would still be talking to me about it all the time and loving it,” Newton-John told CNN in 2017. “It’s just one of those movies. I’m very lucky to have been a part of it. It’s given so many people pleasure.”
Newton-John sang on three of the movie’s biggest hits. She sang duets with Travolta on “You’re The One That I Want” and “Summer Nights.” Newton-John also sang a solo ballad, “Hopelessly Devoted To You.”
Born in Cambridge, England in 1948, Newton-John moved to Melbourne, Australia when she was five. When she was a teenager, she won a talent contest on TV and started appearing on music programs.
Newton-John recorded her first single in England in 1966. She had some international hits, but she was not very well-known in the United States until 1973. That year, “Let Me Be There” became a top-10 hit on both the adult contemporary and the country charts.
After the release of several popular easy-listening songs, including “I Honestly Love You,” “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “Please Mr. Please,” Olivia Newton-John’s career continued to thrive.
“Grease” was the top-grossing movie in 1978 and it is still popular today.
The movie gave Newton-John the opportunity to change her image. The next album, “Totally Hot,” featured the singer in black leather and had a more contemporary pop sound.
Her singing success
In 1981, she released a new song with a sexier persona. The lyrics were suggestive, and some radio stations banned it. But it became her biggest hit, spending 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
She also appeared in several more big-budget movies, including the musical fantasy “Xanadu” with Hollywood legend Gene Kelly in his final screen role. The film was not successful, but its soundtrack sold well and spawned “Magic,” a No. 1 hit.
In 1983, she teamed up with Travolta again for “Two of a Kind.” It was a romantic comedy-fantasy, but it failed to recapture their “Grease” spark.
Newton-John has won four Grammy Awards and sold more than 100 million albums over her lengthy career.
“I’ve had many lives in music. I’ve had country when when I started, then I crossed over into pop,” she told CNN. “I had ‘Xanadu’ and ‘Grease,’ many songs in between. I feel very grateful. I have such a large repertoire to choose from.”
Newton-John also faced her share of troubles and tragedy. Her breast cancer diagnoses forced her to postpone and cancel several tours.
In 2005, Newton-John’s then-boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, went on a fishing trip and disappeared. He was never found. This unsolved mystery continued to haunt the singer for years.
“It’s very hard to live with that,” she told CNN’s Larry King in 2006. “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been through a lot of things.” Although her career profile dimmed in her later years, Newton-John never stopped recording and performing. Among her highlights were guest appearances on “Glee,” a long-running “Summer Nights” residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas and a dance-club hit, “You Have to Believe,” recorded with daughter Chloe.
“I love to sing, it’s all I know how to do,” she told CNN in 2017. “That’s all I’ve ever done since I was 15, so it’s my life. I feel very grateful that I can still do it and people still come to see me.”
Covering superheroes, anything dark, horror, and more! Lead writer for Fan Fest