‘Grease’ Star and Singing Success Olivia Newton-John Dies Aged 73
The English-born, Australia-raised dame enjoyed a long career in music and appeared in some iconic movies.
Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England, but moved to Australia with her family when she was five and was raised in Melbourne.
Though her parents were both academics, Newton-John gravitated towards performance, and specifically, music. She started learning the piano at five, and by the time she was a teenager, she’d formed an all-girl group called Sol Four. They won a TV talent contest called ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’, which offered the opportunity to travel to London. From there, she began performing on army bases and in clubs around Europe.
Her music career took its next step via a deal with Decca Records. Kicking off as a country artist, she transitioned to pop with the late-1973 hit ‘Let Me Be There.’ It was the first of 15 Top 10 U.S. singles, including five chart-toppers: ‘I Honestly Love You,’ ‘Have You Never Been Mellow,’ ‘You’re the One That I Want’ — with John Travolta, from ‘Grease’ — ‘Magic,’ and her biggest smash, ‘Physical.’ The latter topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks and was the biggest single of 1981.
Talking of ‘Grease’, while it became the thing that so many know and love her for, Newton-John was initially unsure about taking on the co-starring role of Sandy, mostly because her previous cinematic experience had been with ‘Toomorrow’, the movie featuring the bubblegum, UK-take-on-The-Monkees-group she joined pre-1970s, was a failure.
“I was very anxious about making another film, because my music career was going well, and I did not want to mess it up by doing another movie that wasn’t good,” Newton-John told Vanity Fair in 2016.
‘Grease’ went on to become a pop cultural sensation and she enjoyed even more musical success with songs from the soundtrack.
Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 but recovered from that occurrence. The cancer returned, however, in 2017 and she announced it had spread to her lower back. She never wanted to be seen as simply a cancer survivor, however. “‘Survivor’ sounds like someone clinging onto a lifeboat,” she told ‘Today’ the same year. “A thriver’s someone who’s already off the boat and on land.”
Her family released the news via her Facebook page. “Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” husband John Easterling wrote. “Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund.
“Olivia is survived by her husband John Easterling; daughter Chloe Lattanzi; sister Sarah Newton-John; brother Toby Newton-John; nieces and nephews Tottie, Fiona and Brett Goldsmith; Emerson, Charlie, Zac, Jeremy, Randall, and Pierz Newton-John; Jude Newton-Stock, Layla Lee; Kira and Tasha Edelstein; and Brin and Valerie Hall.”
Tributes have been pouring in for the much-loved star, though the final word gores to Travolta, her ‘Grease’ co-star and friend.