R.I.P. Olivia Newton-John, ‘Grease’ star and four-time Grammy-winner
The pop star had multiple battles with cancer and was seen as an inspiration to countless people over the last three decades.
Even if you weren’t a fan of pop music in the 1970s, and regardless of your age, there’s still a pretty good chance you know the face and voice of Olivia Newton-John.
Before she was catapulted into a new realm of stardom in the 1978 musical Grease, Newton-John had already created a name for herself.
The England-born and Australia-raised singer-songwriter began her career as a teenager, appearing on various music programs in Australia. Her first single, “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine” was released in 1966, but it was the early ‘70s when her career really began to flourish.
Her first No. 1 song was “I Honestly Love You,” which peaked on Oct. 5, 1974. The following year, “Have You Never Been Mellow” hit the top of the charts for a week.
The already promising and successful music career of Olivia Newton-John got a once-in-a-lifetime boost, with the 1978 film Grease, arguably the most popular and recognizable musical ever.
Her role as Sandy did more than turn heads. The costar role, next to John Travolta as Danny Zuko, gave the pop star a vast new audience, allowing them to hear her in three of the movie’s top songs.
“You’re The One That I Want,” a duet with Travolta, became a No. 1 hit in 1978. Grease, which was the year’s top-grossing movie according to CNN, took Newton-John’s career to a whole new level.
She told CNN in 2017, “I don’t think anyone could have imagined a movie would go on almost 40 years and would still be popular and people would still be talking to me about it all the time and loving it.”
She added she was very lucky to have landed the role, and sing “Summer Nights” and the solo “Hopelessly Devoted To You.” Newton-John didn’t slow down after the film, and her time atop the charts wasn’t over, either.
Her next chart-topping hit was “Magic,” which came from the 1980 musical flop Xanadu, a movie in which Newton-John appeared with Gene Kelly, his final on-screen role. Though the movie wasn’t remotely on the same wavelength as Grease, the film allowed “Magic” to reach No. 1 on the charts in 1980, holding the spot for four weeks.
You can make the argument Newton-John’s most successful venture of her career was Grease, but it wasn’t until after the classic musical was a few years old that we saw her top-performing single get released.
There was no bigger No. 1 song of Newton-John’s career than the 1981 smash-hit “Physical.” The suggestive, up-beat tune was the star’s biggest, lasting 10 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
Featured in a film that has stood the test of time, Newton-John is a household name across multiple generations. Part of the reason why so many fans were shaken to learn the star was battling breast cancer both in the early ‘90s and in 2017.
In 2018, a new form of cancer had surfaced in the base of her spine.
The worldwide ‘70s icon passed away Monday, according to an Instagram post made by her husband, John Easterling, on her verified account.
“Dame Olivia Newton-John passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends… Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” the post read in part.
When all said and done, Newton-John had five No. 1 hits in her career to go along with four Grammy Award victories from 12 nominations.
She was 73.