Olivia Newton-John, the British-born Australian pop star who played opposite John Travolta in the hit movie ‘Grease’, has died at 73 after multiple battles with cancer.
“Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends,” her husband, John Easterling, said on Monday in a Facebook post. “We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.”
Newton-John was the daughter of a former MI5 agent, and her family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1954, when she was six. She emerged as a major recording star in the 1970s, singing radio hits such as ‘Have You Never Been Mellow’, ‘I Honestly Love You’ and ‘If You Love Me, Let Me Know’.
Her career reached new heights with her role as ‘Sandy Olsson’ in the 1978 film adaptation of the Broadway musical ‘Grease’. The movie was that year’s No. 1 box-office hit, and it yielded one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. It featured several Top 5 singles, including ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’, ‘Summer Nights’ and ‘You’re the One That I Want’.
Newton-John went on to star in the 1980 film ‘Xanadu,’ and her 1981 song ‘Physical’ held the top slot on the Billboard music chart for ten weeks, the longest such streak of that decade. All told, she sold more than 100 million records over her music career.
She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, on the same weekend that her father died of cancer, forcing her to cancel a concert tour to promote her new album. She became a staunch advocate for breast cancer survivors and raised money for research. She founded the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, a public hospital in Melbourne.
“Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years, sharing her journey with breast cancer,” Easterling said. “Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer.”
Travolta, who played ‘Danny’ in ‘Grease’, paid tribute to his former co-star on Monday. “We will see you down the road, and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever. Your Danny and your John.”
A note from Newton-John on her public hospital’s website said she hoped to help find cures for all types of cancer. “My dream is that one day, the ONJ Centre will be only about wellness and we will no longer need cancer centers because cancer will be a thing of the past,” she said.