Olivia Newton-John, singer and actress, dies at 73

Brandon GriggsCNN

Posted Monday, August 8, 2022 at 3:42 PM EDT

Last Updated Monday, August 8, 2022 11:32 PM EDT

(CNN) Olivia Newton-John, the Australian singer whose breathy voice and healthy beauty made her one of the biggest pop stars of the ’70s and wowed generations of viewers in the hit movie “Grease,” died Monday. according to a statement from her husband. She was 73 years old.

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

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

His rise to fame

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

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

Their on-screen chemistry as mismatched lovebirds who undergo final-act makeovers to win each other’s hearts (she trades in her frilly dresses for heels, leather, spandex, and a cigarette) anchored the film and inspired legions of fans. fans to see her repeatedly.

“I don’t think anyone could have imagined that a movie would go on for almost 40 years and still be popular and people would keep telling me about it all the time and loving it,” Newton-John told CNN in 2017. It’s just one of those movies. I am very lucky to have been a part of it. It has given a lot of people pleasure.”

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 dazzling solo ballad, “Hopeless Devoted To You.”

Born in Cambridge, England in 1948, Newton-John moved with her family to Melbourne, Australiawhen she was five years old. After winning a talent show on a TV show, “Sing, Sing, Sing”, as a teenager formed a girl group and began appearing on weekly pop music shows 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 with both American and UK audiences. adult contemporary as in the country. cards

A string of No. 1 easy listening 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 absolutely clean image. The cover of her next album “Totally Hot” featured the singer dressed in black leather, while her songs had a more edgy and contemporary pop sound.

His success as a singer

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

He also appeared in several big-budget movies, including the musical fantasy “Xanadu,” with Hollywood legend Gene Kelly in his last on-screen role. The film flopped, but its soundtrack sold well and spawned “Magic,” a number one hit.

In 1983 he teamed up with Travolta again for “Two of a Kind,” a fantasy romantic comedy, but failed to recapture the spark of “Grease.”

During a long career, Newton-John won four Grammy Awards and sold more than 100 million albums.

“I have had many lives in music. I had country when I started, then I crossed over to pop,” he told CNN. “I had ‘Xanadu’ and ‘Grease,’ a lot of songs in between. I feel so grateful. I have such a huge repertoire to choose from.”

overcoming the tragedy

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

And in 2005, Newton-John’s then-boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, disappeared at sea during a fishing trip off the California coast. It was never found, an unsolved mystery that haunted the singer for years.

“That’s very hard to live with,” he told CNN’s Larry King in 2006. “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been through a lot.” Although the profile of his career dimmed in his later years, Newton-John never stopped recording and performing. Among her highlights are guest appearances on “Glee,” a long-running residency on “Summer Nights” at the Flamingo Las Vegas, and a nightclub hit, “You Have to Believe,” recorded with daughter of her Chloe.

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

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