“Dame Olivia Newton-John passed away peacefully at her Southern California ranch this morning surrounded by family and friends. We ask everyone to respect the family’s privacy at 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 triumph and hope for over 30 years, sharing her journey with breast cancer.”
With a string of country and soft rock hits, Newton-John was already a popular singer in the late 1970s. But it was her co-starring role with John Travolta in 1978’s Grease, arguably the most popular musical of all time, that catapulted her to a new level of stardom.
Despite having little acting experience (and turning 29 during filming), Newton-John excelled as Sandy, a sweet-natured Australian transfer student who romances Travolta’s alpha greaser in the 1950s Danny is in high school in Southern California.
Their on-screen chemistry as mismatched lovebirds who transform into a final act to win each other’s hearts – she ditches frilly dresses for heels, leather, spandex and cigarettes – cemented the film and inspired legions of repeat viewings.
Newton-John sang three of the film’s biggest hits: the duets “You’re The One That I Want” and “Summer Nights” with Travolta, as well as her swooning solo ballad “Hopelessly Devoted To You.”
Newton-John recorded her first single in England in 1966 and had several international hits, but she remained virtually unknown to US audiences until 1973, when “Let Be There” entered the top 10 on both the adult and pop charts. for the country. .
A string of easy-listening #1 hits followed, including “I Honestly Love You,” “Have You Never Been Mellow,” and “Please Mr. Please.”
Then came Grease, the highest-grossing film of 1978 and an enduring cultural phenomenon.
The film gave Newton-John an opportunity to change his stunning image. On the cover of her next album, Totally Hot, the singer was dressed in black leather, and the songs on that album had a sharper, modern pop sound.
Her singing successes
In 1981, she took a step forward in her new, sexier persona with “Physical,” a dance number with suggestive lyrics like, “There’s nothing to talk about unless it’s horizontal.” Banned by several radio stations, it became her biggest hit, spending 10 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.
She also appeared in several other big-budget films, including the musical fantasy Xanadu with Hollywood legend Gene Kelly in her last screen role. The film bombed, but its soundtrack sold well and spawned “Magic,” a No. 1 hit.
In 1983, she reunited with Travolta for the romantic comedy fantasy Two of a Kind, but she failed to recapture their spark with Grease.
During his long career, Newton-John won four Grammy Awards and sold more than 100 million albums.
“I’ve had many lives in music. When I started, I had country, and then I went into pop,” she told CNN. “I had ‘Xanadu’ and ‘Grease,’ a lot of songs in between. I feel very grateful. I have such a large repertoire to choose from.”
But Newton-John also faced her share of troubles and tragedies. Her breast cancer diagnosis forced her to postpone and cancel several tours.
“It’s very hard to live with,” she told CNN’s Larry King in 2006. – This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever felt, and I’ve been through a lot.” Although her career has declined in recent years, Newton-John has never stopped recording and performing. Among her highlights were guest appearances on “Glee,” an extended “Summer Nights” residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas, and the dance club hit “You Have to Believe,” recorded with daughter Khloe.
“I love to sing, it’s all I can do,” she told CNN in 2017. – This is all I have been doing since I was 15, so this is my life. I feel very grateful that I can still do this and that people still come to me.”