Olivia Newton-John, singer and 'Grease' star, dead at 73

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Olivia Newton-John at the "Grease" 40th anniversary screening in 2018.Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
  • Olivia Newton-John died on Monday at age 73, according to her husband.

  • She won four Grammy Awards throughout her career and starred in "Grease" and "Xanadu."

  • She was diagnosed with cancer three times and became a breast-cancer-awareness advocate.

Singer and "Grease" star Olivia Newton-John died Monday at 73, her husband confirmed.

"Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends," John Easterling wrote in an Instagram post. "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," the Instagram post written by her husband said. He asked for donations to the foundation in lieu of flowers.

Born in Cambridge, UK, Newton-John moved to Australia with her family when she was 6 years old. She began performing there and appeared on Australian TV shows including "The Happy Show" and "The Go!! Show" in the 1960s.

She and her friend Pat Carroll formed a musical duo in their teens and used to perform together, even touring nightclubs in England. Carroll's husband, John Farrar, was Newton-John's longtime music producer.

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Olivia Newton-John in 1975.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Since making her first album in 1971, Newton-John released a total of 26 studio albums over her career. Her singles "If You Love Me, Let Me Know," from 1974, and 1975's "Have You Never Been Mellow" would hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in the US. She had five No. 1 hits, including "Physical," which was a chart-topping smash and has been covered by other artists like Kylie Minogue and Dua Lipa.

Newton-John won four Grammy Awards, including record of the year in 1974. She also competed at the 1974 Eurovision contest with the track "Long Live Love."

Newton-John became internationally famous for her film roles in the 1970s and '80s

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Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta at the "Grease" premiere.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Newton-John's fame catapulted to new heights when she starred as Sandy in the 1978 movie "Grease." Not only was the film a massive hit, but "You're the One That I Want," her duet with John Travolta for the soundrack, reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts. She earned a Golden Globe nomination and sang the Oscar-nominated "Hopelessly Devoted to You," another song from the film, at the Acadamy Awards.

In 1980, she starred in "Xanadu." The film was critically derided and is still regarded as one of the worst-reviewed movies of all time, even serving as partial inspiration for the so-called Golden Raspberry Awards or the "Razzies" that honor the "worst" films of the year. Despite the negative ratings from critics, the soundtrack — including the song "Magic" by Newton-John — went double platinum.

She followed those roles with movies like "Two of a Kind," again with Travolta, in 1983, and later, the 2000 series "Sordid Lives," but none were as successful as her earlier work. She also appeared in 2017's "Sharknado 5: Global Swarming."

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Olivia Newton-John at the annual Wellness Walk and Research Run in 2018, in Melbourne.Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Personal life and legacy

Newton-John was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1979 and became a dame commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2020 for her work in the fields of entertainment, philanthropy, and cancer research.

The actress was diagnosed with cancer three separate times. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, which spurred her advocacy for breast-cancer awareness and screenings. She was diagnosed again in 2013, but this time, the cancer spread to her shoulder.

In May 2017, the singer revealed she was diagnosed for a third time and that the cancer had spread to her lower back. In 2021, she said she was still living with cancer and using cannabis to help with the symptoms.

"I have my days. I have my pains," Newton-John told the "Today" show host Hoda Kotb at the time. "But the cannabis that my husband grows for me has been such a huge part of my healing, and so I'm a really lucky person."

She married Matt Lattanzi in 1984 and they had a daughter, Chloe Rose, before divorcing in 1995. She married John Esterling in 2008.

She is survived by her husband; her daughter, Chloe; her sister, Sarah Newton-John; and brother, Toby Newton-John.

John Travolta called Newton-John's impact "incredible"

A number of celebrities mourned Newton-John's death after it was announced Monday.

"My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible," Travolta, her "Grease" costar wrote on Instagram.

"I love you so much," he continued. "We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the moment I saw you and forever!

Travolta signed his Instagram post: "Your Danny, your John!"

"Devastated to hear this news. I loved Olivia," Katie Couric shared on Twitter

Dionne Warwick called Newton-John "one of the nicest people I had the pleasure of recording and performing with."

"Another angelic voice has been added to the Heavenly Choir. I will most definitely miss her. She now Rests in the Arms of the Heavenly Father," Warwick said on Twitter.

 

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