Her husband, John Easterling, wrote in a statement: “Mrs. Olivia Newton-John passed away peacefully on her Southern California ranch this morning, surrounded by family and friends. We ask everyone to respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.” On the singer’s verified Instagram account. “Olivia has been a symbol of triumph and hope for over 30 years as she shares her journey with breast cancer.”
Although she had little acting experience (and turned 29 while filming), Newton-John has made an indelible performance as Sandy, a sweet and lovable Australian student Danny at Travolta’s Alpha Grease High School in Southern California in the 1950s.
Their on-screen chemistry as mismatched lovebirds underwent a revamp in the final act to win each other’s hearts — she ditched her embellished heels, leather, spandex, and cigarette dresses — solidified the film and inspired repeat views by legions of fans.
Newton-John sang to three of the movie’s biggest hits: the duo “You’re The One I Want” and “Summer Nights” with Travolta, and her lead single “Hopelessly Devoted To You.”
Newton-John recorded her first single in England in 1966 and recorded some international success, but remained largely unknown to American audiences until 1973, when “Let Me Be There” became a Top 10 hit on both the adult contemporary and country charts.
A series of easy-to-listen first songs 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 a perennial cultural phenomenon.
The film gave Newton-John a chance to transform her stark image. The cover of her next album, “Totally Hot,” featured the singer in black leather, while her songs had a more modern and contemporary pop sound.
her singing success
In 1981, her new sexiest character took a step forward with a “physical” dance number with suggestive lyrics like, “There’s nothing left to talk about unless it’s horizontal.” Banned by many radio stations, it was her biggest hit, spending 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
She has also appeared in several big-budget films, including the fantasy musical “Xanadu” with Hollywood legend Gene Kelly in his last on-screen role. The film bombed, but his sound sold well and he produced “Magic,” which hit #1.
In 1983 she teamed with Travolta again on Two of a Kind, a romantic fantasy comedy, but failed to regain the “Grease” spark.
During a long career, Newton-John won four Grammy Awards and sold over 100 million albums.
“I’ve lived a lot of life in music,” she told CNN. “I had country music when I started out, then transitioned to pop music.” “I’ve had so many ‘Xanadu’ and ‘Grease’ songs in between. I’m so grateful. I have a great repertoire to choose from.”
But Newton-John has also had her share of troubles and tragedies. A diagnosis of breast cancer forced her to postpone and cancel several tours.
“It’s very hard to live with,” CNN’s Larry King said 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 subsided in her later years, Newton-John did not stop recording and performing. Among her highlights were her guest appearance on “Glee”, an extended stay on “Summer Nights” in Flamingo Las Vegas, and the dance song “You Have to Believe” recorded with her daughter Chloe.
“I love to sing, all I know is how to do,” she told CNN in 2017. “That’s all I’ve done since I was 15, so it’s my life. I’m so grateful I’m still able to do this. People still come to see me.”
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