Olivia Newton John, singer and actress, dead at 73

“Dame Olivia Newton-John passed away peacefully this morning at her ranch in Southern California, surrounded by her family and friends. We ask that everyone respect the privacy of the family during this very difficult time,” her husband, John Easterling, wrote in a statement. on the singer’s verified Instagram account. “Olivia has been a beacon of triumphs and hope for over 30 years, sharing her journey with breast cancer.”

The singer revealed in September 2018 that she was nursing cancer at the base of her spine. It was her third cancer diagnosis, following bouts of breast cancer in the early 1990s and in 2017.

Thanks to a string of country and soft-rock hits, Newton-John was already a popular singer by the late 1970s. But his role alongside John Travolta in 1978’s “Grease” arguably the most popular musical of all time, propelled her to a new level of stardom.

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in 1978 in

Although she had little acting experience (and turned 29 during filming), Newton-John gave an indelible performance as Sandy, a sweet Australian transfer student who romances the Travolta’s alpha greaser, Danny, at a Southern California high school in the 1950s.

Their on-screen chemistry as mismatched lovebirds who undergo final makeovers to win each other’s hearts — she ditches her frilly dresses for heels, leather, spandex and a cigarette — anchored the film and inspired repeat viewings by legions of fans.

“I don’t think anyone could have imagined that a movie would last nearly 40 years and still be popular and people would tell me about it all the time and love it,” Newton-John told CNN in 2017. “It’s just one of those movies. I’m very lucky to have been part of it. It made so many people happy.”

Newton-John sang on three of the film’s biggest hits: the duets “You’re The One That I Want” and “Summer Nights” with Travolta, and his soaring solo ballad, “Hopelessly Devoted To You.”

Born in Cambridge, England in 1948, Newton-John moved with her family to Melbourne, Australia when she was five years old. After winning a talent contest in a TV show, “Sing, Sing, Sing”, as as a teenager, she formed a group of girls and began appearing on weekly pop music programs in Australia.

Newton-John recorded her first single in England in 1966 and scored some international hits, but remained largely unknown to American audiences until 1973, when “Let Me Be There” became a top 10 hit in both for adult contemporary and country. graphics.

A series of easy-listening No. 1 hits followed, including “I Honestly Love You”, “Have You Never Been Mellow”, and “Please Mr. Please”.

Then came “Grease,” which was the highest-grossing film of 1978 and became an enduring cultural phenomenon.

The film gave Newton-John the opportunity to change his impeccable image. The cover of her next album, “Totally Hot,” featured the singer in black leather, while her songs had an edgier, more contemporary pop sound.

Her singing success

In 1981, she took her new, sexier persona one step further with “Physical”, a dance number with lyrics as suggestive as “There’s nothing left to say unless it’s horizontally”. Banned by several radio stations, it became his biggest hit, spending 10 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.

Olivia Newton-John performing on the BBC Music Show

She also appeared in several other big-budget films, including the musical fantasy “Xanadu” starring Hollywood legend Gene Kelly in her final screen role. The film bombed, 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,” a romantic fantasy comedy, but failed to recapture their “Grease” spark.

Over a long career, Newton-John won four Grammy Awards and sold over 100 million albums.

“I’ve had many lifetimes in music. I had country when I started and then moved on to pop,” she told CNN. “I had ‘Xanadu’ and ‘Grease’, many songs in between. I’m so grateful. I have such a huge repertoire to choose from.”

overcoming the tragedy

But Newton-John also faced his share of problems and tragedies. Her breast cancer diagnoses forced her to postpone and cancel several tours.

And in 2005, Newton-John’s boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, disappeared at sea during a fishing trip off California. He was never found – an unsolved mystery that haunted 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 been through, and I’ve been through a lot of things.” Although her career profile faded in her later years, Newton-John never stopped recording and performing. His highlights include appearances on “Glee,” a longtime “Summer Nights” residency at Flamingo Las Vegas, and a dance club hit, “You Have to Believe,” recorded with his daughter Chloe.

“I love to sing, it’s all I know how to do,” she told CNN in 2017. “It’s all I’ve done since I was 15, so it’s is my life. I’m very grateful that I can still do it and people still come to see me.”

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