The world is reeling following the death of beloved Grease actress and Australian pop singer Olivia Newton-John. She died on Monday at the age of 73, according to a statement from her husband.
"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 Instagram account. "Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer."
Back in September 2018, Newton-John revealed that she was treating cancer at the base of her spine. It was her third cancer diagnosis, following bouts with breast cancer in the early ’90s and in 2017.
Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England in 1948, later moving to Melbourne, Australia at the age of five. At fourteen, she formed an all-girl group and began appearing on weekly pop music programs in Australia. She later recorded her first single in England in 1966. While she saw some international success, she remained largely unknown to American audiences until 1973, when "Let Me Be There" became a top 10 hit.
Despite Newton-John’s break into the U.S. market, her stardom wasn’t really solidified until Grease came along – which was 1978’s top-grossing movie and became an enduring cultural phenomenon. She starred opposite John Travolta as the character Sandy: a sweet-natured Australian transfer student who romances Travolta’s alpha greaser Danny at a Southern California high school in the 1950s. She sang on three of the movie’s biggest hits: the duets "You’re The One That I Want" and "Summer Nights" with Travolta, and her solo ballad, "Hopelessly Devoted To You."
"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."
Thanks to her famous makeover at the end of Grease, the film also gave Newton-John an opportunity to change her squeaky-clean image. Her next album, Totally Hot, featured an edgier Newton-John with a more contemporary pop sound. The singer would then follow that album up in 1981 with her most successful album, Physical, which featured the title track that was banned by several radio stations at the time but spent 10 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.
Over her lengthy career, Newton-John won four Grammy Awards and sold more than 100 million albums, making her one of the best-selling recording artists of the 1970s and 1980s.
Although her career profile dimmed in her later years, Newton-John never stopped recording and performing. Among her highlights were guest appearances on Glee and a long-running Summer Nights residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas. She was also an activist for environmental and animal rights causes, and advocated for breast cancer research – earning her appointment as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1979 New Year Honours as well as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to charity, cancer research and entertainment.
Besides her daughter Chloe and her husband John Easterling, Newton-John is also survived by her sister, Sarah Newton-John, and her brother, Toby.
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Article Image: Olivia Newton-John performing at the Count Basie Theater in New Jersey in 2017. (andykazie via DepositPhotos.)