Olivia Newton-John Dead At 73
Olivia Newton-John, the Grammy-winning pop star and actor known for her role in Grease and hit songs like “Physical,” has died. As Billboard reports, Newton-John succumbed to breast cancer today after a 30-year battle with the disease. She was 73.
A statement on Newton-John’s Facebook page from her husband John Easterling reads as follows:
Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) 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.
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 Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund (ONJFoundationFund.org).
Olivia is survived by her husband John Easterling; daughter Chloe Lattanzi; sister Sarah Newton-John; brother Toby Newton-John; nieces and nephews Tottie, Fiona and Brett Goldsmith; Emerson, Charlie, Zac, Jeremy, Randall, and Pierz Newton-John; Jude Newton-Stock, Layla Lee; Kira and Tasha Edelstein; and Brin and Valerie Hall.
In a statement via her publicist, Dinah Manoff, who played Marty Maraschino in Grease, paid tribute to her co-star. “As many will tell you, Olivia Newton-John was one of the kindest, most generous souls ever to grace the earth, and I was one lucky Pink Lady to have spent time with her during the filming of Grease,” Manoff said. “She brought light and laughter wherever she went. My deepest condolences to her family and friends during their time of great loss.”
Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England to a prominent family in 1948. (Her grandfather Max Born was a Nobel-winning Jewish physicist who was friends with Albert Einstein and who’d fled Germany before World War II to escape the Holocaust; her father Brinley Newton-John was an MI5 officer who helped capture the high-ranking Nazi Rudolf Hess.) When Olivia was six, the Newton-John family moved to Melbourne. Upon forming the singing group Sol Four at age 14, she became a regular performer on local TV shows. After winning a talent competition, she moved back to England and played the bar circuit for a while before briefly joining American music exec Don Kirshner’s ill-fated sci-fi-themed group Toomorrow and starring in a film of the same name.
By the early 1970s, Newton-John launched a successful solo career. The title track from her 1971 debut solo album If Not For You, originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan for his New Morning album and later covered by George Harrison on All Things Must Pass, became a minor hit. This began a series of hit ballads that found success in both pop and country formats, leading up to her first American #1 hit, 1974’s “I Honestly Love You.” The song’s success helped push her album If You Love Me, Let Me Know to #1 as well. 1975’s Have You Never Been Mellow also hit #1, fueled by its chart-topping title track.
Many more hits followed throughout the ’70s. Newton-John was cast as Sandy in the film version of the Broadway musical Grease, which became her signature role and spun off another #1 hit, a duet with costar John Travolta called “You’re The One That I Want,” as well as further hits “Summer Nights” and “Hopelessly Devoted To You.”
Playing off her character Sandy’s transformation in the movie, Newton-John pivoted to an edgier, more overtly poppy sound as the ’70s turned over into the ’80s. This led to her fourth and fifth #1 hits (and the two biggest hits of her career), 1980’s “Magic” (an Electric Light Orchestra collab from the Xanadu soundtrack) and 1982’s provocative, fitness-themed smash “Physical.”
Although Newton-John’s career never again achieved such heights, she continued to make her mark in the ensuing decades as both a performer and an advocate for causes such as animal rights. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, she has been regularly involved with cancer research fundraisers and events celebrating cancer survivors. Below, revisit some of her most popular songs.