British-born Australian singer Olivia Newton-John dies at 73

Olivia Newton-John, the Grammy-winning superstar who reigned over the pop, country, adult contemporary and dance music charts with hits like “Physical” and “You’re the One That I Want” and won countless hearts as the Everyone’s favorite Sandy in the hit movie version of “Grease” has died. She was 73 years old.

Newton-John, a longtime Australian resident whose sales exceeded 100 million albums, died Monday at his ranch in Southern California, John Easterling, her husband, wrote on Instagram and Facebook.

“Olivia has been a symbol of triumph and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” she wrote. “We ask that everyone respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.”

From 1973 to 1983, Newton-John was among the most popular artists in the world. He had 14 top 10 singles in the US alone, won four Grammy Awards, starred with John Travolta in “Grease” and with Gene Kelly in “Xanadu.” The Travolta-Newton-John fast-step duet “You’re the One That I Want” was one of the biggest songs of the era and has sold more than 15 million copies.

“My dearest Olivia, you made our lives so much better,” Travolta wrote in an online post. “Your impact was incredible. I love you very much. We will see each other on the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!

“Physical,” the R-rated smash hit 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. A promotional clip about aerobics, shot in the early years of MTV, won a Grammy for best video.

Both musically and visually, he reinvented himself during those years. At first, the always-smiling blonde Newton-John favored soft country-pop songs like “Please Mr. Please” and “Have You Never Been Mellow” and soft ballads like “I Honestly Love You,” which won 1975 Grammy Awards. . for best female pop voice and recording of the year. But he picked up the pace on “Grease,” especially after Sandy ditched her white sweaters and blouses for high-waisted black leather pants. “Physical” even made Newton-John blush when he told his would-be lover “There’s nothing else to talk about/Unless it’s horizontal” and finally yelled “Let’s go animal! Animal!”

“I recorded it and all of a sudden I was like, ‘Oh my God, maybe I’ve gone too far!'” she told Entertainment Weekly in 2017, recalling how manager Roger Davies had suggested the song. “I called Roger and said, ‘We have to get this song out!’ He said: ‘It’s too late. It has already crossed over to radio and is climbing the charts. He was horrified!”

Fans flooded social media to mourn his death. “Farewell with love to the legend who will always be my first love,” wrote actor Daniel Dae Kim. Tracie Thoms added: “Olivia Newton-John is an icon. She’s going to be sorely missed.” Gabrielle Union said she and her sister watched “Xanadu” “more times than I can count.”

He had a few hits after “Physical,” but his career declined and Newton-John became more newsworthy due to his private life. In 1992, while preparing for a concert tour, his father died and he was diagnosed with breast cancer. His marriage to actor Matt Lattanzi, with whom he had a daughter, actress and singer Chloe Lattanzi, broke down in 1995 and a years-long relationship with cameraman Patrick McDermott mysteriously ended. McDermott disappeared during a fishing trip in California in 2005 and his fate remained unknown years later. Numerous reports alleged that he was living in Mexico with a new girlfriend.

“I was lost at sea, and nobody really knows what happened,” Newton-John told Australia’s “60 Minutes” in 2016. “It’s only human to wonder. But you know, those are the things in life that you have to accept and let go of. Because whenever you go through difficult times, there are always those worries.

Newton-John’s recent albums include “Stronger Than Before”; a Christmas collaboration with Travolta, “This Christmas” and the autobiographical “Gaia: One Woman’s Journey,” inspired by her battle with cancer and the loss of her father.

Newton-John married John Easterling, founder of Amazon Herb Company, in 2008. She has been involved in numerous charitable causes, serving as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program and as a national spokesperson for the Environmental Health Coalition. Childish. She also founded the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center in Melbourne, Australia.

Newton-John was the daughter of German literature professor Brin Newton-John and Irene Bron, whose father was Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Bron. The Newton-Johns moved to Australia when Olivia was 5, but she returned to England as a teenager and lived with her mother after her parents separated from her. She had early dreams of becoming a veterinarian, but she was winning singing contests in high school and by the age of 20 she had toured army bases and clubs and recorded her first single, “Till You Say You’ll Be”. Mine”. In 1971, he covered Bob Dylan’s “If Not for You” and began a close collaboration with a friend from Australia, John Farrar, who produced the song and later wrote “You’re the One That I Want,” “Magic and various songs. other hits for her.

He had liked country music, especially “Tennessee” Ernie Ford records, since childhood, but his early success did not impress critics or some fellow musicians. A Village Voice review compared her to a geisha who “makes her voice smaller than she really is just to please men.” When Newton-John surpassed Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn as the Country Music Association’s top artist of 1973, Tammy Wynette helped found the Country Artists Association, a club designed to exclude Newton-John and other crossover artists.

But Newton-John had a fan from show business who, with her, became one of the most unforgettable teams in cinema. Travolta had starred in the stage version of “Grease” and for the planned film she thought Newton-John would be the “last” Sandy, the good girl who gets hard in the final act and catches her man.

“I was worried that at 29 I was too old to play a high school girl,” Newton-John, who insisted on doing a screen test before accepting the part, told The Telegraph in 2017. “All about doing the movie was fun, but if I had to pick a favorite moment, it would be the transformation from what I call Sandy 1 to Sandy 2. I got to play a different character and wear different clothes, and when I put on that tight black suit to sing ‘You’re the One That I Want’, I got a very different reaction from the guys on set.”

She is survived by her husband; daughter Chloe Lattanzi; sister Sarah Newton-John; brother Toby Newton-John; and several nieces and nephews.

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