Singer and actress Olivia Newton-John has died at the age of 73. This has been announced via her official Instagram page. Newton-John, known for the musical film Grease, had been suffering from breast cancer for a long time. She died this morning (local time) in her California residence in front of her family and friends.
Newton-John was born in the British city of Cambridge and moved to Australia at a young age. In the early 1970s, she scored her first hit as a singer and in 1974 she participated in the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of the United Kingdom. She finished in fourth place (it was the year that ABBA won with Waterloo).
A short time later, she moved to the US, where she also had a successful singing career, with mostly country songs. She had five number-one hits and won four Grammy Awards.
Good luck with Grease
With Grease came her big break as an actress. She was asked for the role of the good Sandy Olsson when she met producer Allan Carr at a dinner party. At first she was afraid that she was already too old (she was already 29 when shooting began) to be able to pass for a student in a high school, but after a screen test with her co-star John Travolta, she decided to accept the role.
Grease became the biggest box office success of 1978, with the soundtrack to the film being ranked number 1 in the Album Top 100 in the Netherlands for sixteen weeks and yielding Newton-John two number-one hits with You‘re the one that I want (a duet with John Travolta, 9 weeks out of 1) and Hopelessly devoted to you (4 weeks).
Another hit from Grease was Summer Nights:
Newton-John’s transformation into Grease from the good, neat Sandy to the spandex-clad vamp who seduces Travolta‘s movie character Danny Zuko (who is just going through a reverse transformation) at the end of the film encouraged her to do the same with her singing career. On her album Totally Hot (1978) she was dressed in leather on the cover and the songs also had a more aggressive uptempo sound than before.
Two more albums
Later she had success with her album Physical (1981) with which she was in the Dutch Top 40 for eleven weeks with the title song, with the highest ranking in fourth place. Due to the provocative lyrics that refer to sex, the song was banned on two radio stations in Utah.
To counterbalance the suggestive text, she made a video about fitness and aerobics (in English, physical exercise can also be meant). In it, she wore a sweatband around her head that then became a sought-after fashion item.
First cancer diagnosis
Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in 1992. After a treatment, she recovered. Over that period later released the album Gaia: One Woman’s Journey. It was the first album of which she wrote both the music and the lyrics herself. Since then, she has also been committed to more research into (breast) cancer.
In 2013, Newton-John was treated for a tumour in her shoulder. She healed, but five years ago, the disease came back and she got metastases in her lower back. In 2019, Newton-John was knighted by British Queen Elizabeth, including for her contribution to cancer research.