Olivia Newton-John, who rose to fame in the 1970s and 1980s with hits including “I Honestly Love You,” “Physical,” and “Grease,” died on Monday at the age of 73 in her Southern California home.
It was confirmed on Instagram that the British-born, Australian-raised entertainer had gone away peacefully at her ranch home “surrounded by loved ones.”
When she announced in 2017 that she had a recurrence of breast cancer and that it had spread to her lower back, Newton-John said that she would be unable to perform. Prior to her breast cancer diagnosis, Newton-John had undergone a partial mastectomy, which spurred the singer to become an outspoken supporter for breast cancer research.
After migrating to the United States, the entertainer went on to become a worldwide sensation. At the time of her first chart-topping single, “If Not for You,” which was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “If I Had a Hammer,” she was a wholesome blonde with blue eyes.
Her Grammy-winning song “Let Me Be There” would be followed by “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “I Honestly Love You,” as well as two No. 1 hits, “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “I Honestly Love You.” For best female pop performance and record of the year, she won Grammys for the latter song.
Also in 1974, she won the Country Music Association’s award for female singer of the year over such domestically based American singers as Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, among others. Many Nashville purists were concerned by the unexpected success of an Australian singer-songwriter who performed country-flavored pop songs.
Criticism of Newton-work John’s was mixed at best, with many praising it as being too gaudy and commercial for their tastes. Her voice was reportedly described by the New York Times as “almost colourless.”
Despite the negative press, sales of Newton-albums John’s were unaffected, and she went on to star in the 1978 hit musical “Grease,” in which she starred alongside John Travolta.
Sandy, the prim character played by Newton-John, has a summer affair with Danny, the “greaser” played by Travolta, but their relationship falls apart due to cultural differences in the film, which is set in the 1950s. It all works out in the end when Danny cleans up his act and Sandy shows up in a sexy black leather ensemble.
“Impact was spectacular,” he wrote in an Instagram post in honour of his late co-star John Travolta.
An open letter from the actor reads: “My lovely Olivia, you made our lives so much more enjoyable.” “I adore you to the core. We’ll see you in the future, and we’ll all be back together. The moment I laid eyes on you, I knew we were meant to be. Danny and John are yours! :)”
A dinner party impressing Allan Carr, the film’s producer, led Travolta to encourage Newton-John to accept the role of the female lead in the movie.
The vocalist was hesitant at first because of her bad experience in the 1970 British film disaster “Toomorrow,” which had the awkwardly named title “Toomorrow.” Sandy was revised to be Australian instead of American since she was worried about delivering an American accent during the performance of the role.
Based on a 1972 Broadway blockbuster musical, the film was a critical and commercial triumph, and its soundtrack created numerous songs, including the title song, Newton-“Hopelessly John’s Devoted to You,” and “Summer Nights.”
“I’m thankful for ‘Grease,'” she said in a 2016 interview with the Detroit News. There’s still a lot of affection for the film and the music.
Newton-second John’s musical film, “Xanadu” in 1980, was a flop, but the title song and “Magic,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, gave her further hits.
“Physical” was Newton-biggest John’s hit single in 1981. As a result of the music video’s appearance in workout gear and a headband, the look became popular. She lost her good-girl image because of its explicit lyrics (“there’s nothing left to talk about unless we do it horizontally, let’s get physical”), and several radio stations banned it.
Following the release of “Physical,” John Newton-career John’s took a turn for the worst. But in 2015, her only kid, Chloe Lattanzi, performed a reworked version of “Magic” with the help of her mother.
In 1983, she teamed up with John Travolta for “Two of a Kind,” and the two made a Christmas album in 2012.
A cancer survivor herself, Newton-John launched the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Center in her hometown of Melbourne after her first breast cancer diagnosis in 2002. Her sister died from brain cancer. She also sold a kit called the Olivia Breast Self-Examination Kit.
Physicist Max Born’s grandson Newton-John finished fourth in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, representing Great Britain.
She divorced “Xanadu” star Matt Lattanzi in 1995 and married businessman John Easterling two years later.