Olivia Newton-John, the Grammy-winning superstar who reigned on pop, country, adult contemporary and dance charts with such hits as “Physical” and “You’re the One That I Want” and won countless hearts as everyone’s favourite Sandy in the blockbuster film version of “Grease,” has died. She was 73.
Newton-John, a longtime resident of Australia whose sales topped 100 million records, died on Monday at her Southern California ranch, John Easterling, her husband, wrote on Instagram and Facebook.
“Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” he wrote. “We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.”
From 1973-83, Newton-John was among the world’s most popular entertainers. She had 14 top 10 singles just in the US, won four Grammys, starred with John Travolta in “Grease” and with Gene Kelly in “Xanadu.”
The fast-stepping Travolta-Newton-John duet, “You’re the One That I Want,” was one of the era’s biggest songs and has sold more than 15 million copies.
“My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better,” Travolta wrote in an online post. “Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!”
Song of the year
“Physical,” the bouncy smash released in 1981, was No 1 for 10 weeks and was named Billboard’s song of the year despite being banned by some radio stations. An aerobics-friendly promotional clip, filmed in the early years of MTV, won a Grammy for best video.
Both musically and image-wise, she reinvented herself during those years. The blonde, ever-smiling Newton-John initially favoured mild pop-country songs such as “Please Mr Please” and “Have You Never Been Mellow” and soft-breathing ballads like “I Honestly Love You,” which in 1975 won Grammys for best female pop vocal and record of the year.
But she picked up the tempo in “Grease,” especially after Sandy ditched her white sweaters and blouses for waist-high, black leather pants.
She had a few hits after “Physical,” but her career declined and Newton-John became more likely to make news because of her private life.
Newton-John’s recent albums included “Stronger Than Before”; a holiday collaboration with Travolta, “This Christmas"; and the autobiographical “Gaia: One Woman’s Journey,” inspired by her battle with cancer and by the loss of her father.
Newton-John married John Easterling, founder of the Amazon Herb Company, in 2008. She was involved in numerous charitable causes, serving as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme and as national spokesperson for the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition. She also founded the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia.