Olivia Newton-John Dead at 73
Olivia Newton-John, best known for a string of country and pop hits and starring roles in several classic films, died Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, after a battle with cancer.
A note on Newton-John's social media pages revealed the news.
"Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends," husband John Easterling writes. "We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time."
Easterling continues by recognizing his wife's courageous and public battle with cancer:
Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer. 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 @onjfoundation
Born in Cambridge, England, in 1948, Newton-John lived there until 1954, when her family moved to Melbourne, Australia. She formed an all-girl singing group at 14 that was short-lived, then became a regular on Australian TV and radio shows, performing as "Lovely Livvy" on The Happy Show. She also won a TV singing contest show called Sing, Sing, Sing, and the prize was a trip to England, where she recorded and released some early, unsuccessful singles.
Stints in a duo called Pat & Olivia and a group called Toomorrow followed before Newton-John released her first solo album, If Not For You, in America in 1971. She scored a No. 25 pop hit and No. 1 adult contemporary hit with the title song, a Bob Dylan cover, which kicked off a run of hit singles in the U.S. that would see her become a multi-genre superstar.
1973's "Let Me Be There" earned her hits in pop, adult contemporary and country, and Newton-John won a Grammy for Best Country Female and an Academy of Country Music Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist as a result. "If You Love Me, Let Me Know" was also a cross-genre hit, followed by "I Honestly Love You," which became the singer's signature song and won her Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance-Female. She also won the CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1974, which would prove controversial for Nashville insiders who did not like the notion of a foreign pop singer intruding on the genre.
Newton-John had appeared in some forgettable early films, and she was reluctant when she was offered the part of Sandy in the 1978 film adaptation of Grease, since she was 28 years old and would be playing a senior in high school. She accepted the part after a successful screen test with John Travolta, and the film became the biggest box office hit of 1978. It was accompanied by a soundtrack that landed Newton-John even more hits. including a duet with Travolta, "You're the One That I Want," and a track with him and the film's cast titled "Summer Nights." "Hopelessly Devoted to You" also scored her a massive solo hit from the film, and her performance earned her a People's Choice Award for Favorite Film Actress. Newton-John was also nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Musical.
She would go on to less successful films including Xanadu and Two of a Kind, which reunited her with Travolta in 1983, though both soundtracks would yield additional hits. Xanadu paired her with Electric Light Orchestra for the title song, which reached the Top 5 in both pop and AC, while "Magic" was a multi-genre No. 1 hit. She reunited with Travolta for "Take a Chance" from Two of a Kind, which reached No. 3. Newton-John also scored hits with "Physical," "Make a Move on Me," "Heart Attack" and "Soul Kiss" in the early '80s before starting to see her career slow down significantly toward the end of the decade. She continued to record and perform steadily in the '90s and 2000s, but began focusing more on her advocacy work for environmental issues and cancer awareness.
Newton-John survived a bout with breast cancer in 1992, and again in 2013. She was diagnosed again in May of 2018, and she found out it had spread to her back, forcing her to cancel tour dates and seek alternative forms of treatment. In January of 2019, the singer turned to Twitter to usher in the new year by refuting tabloid reports that she was "clinging to life."
"I just want to say the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated, to quote a very famous quote, and I’m doing great and I want to wish all of you the happiest, healthiest 2019 that’s possible," she told fans at the time.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced. Newton-John is survived by her husband and one daughter Chloe, plus an extended family that includes siblings, nieces and nephews.
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