Olivia Newton-John, the celebrated pop culture icon known as much for her performances in Grease and Xanadu, as well as her Grammy-winning hits like “I Honestly Love You” and “Physical,” died Monday, Aug. 8. She was 73.
Newton-John’s husband, John Easterling, confirmed her death on Instagram, writing that she “passed away peacefully at her ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends.” No exact cause of death was given.
The statement continued, “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. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the @onjfoundation [Olivia Newton-John Foundation].”
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A post shared by Olivia Newton-John (@therealonj)
John Travolta, who famously starred opposite Newton-John in Grease, shared a tribute on Instagram, writing, “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the moment I saw you and forever!”
Born in England in 1948, Newton-John moved with her family to Melbourne, Australia in the early-Fifties when she was 5. Her entertainment career began in earnest when she was still a teenager: She formed her own girl group, Sol 4, toured army bases and clubs in the U.K. and Europe with her friend Pat Carroll, and won the popular Australian talent show, Sing, Sing, Sing. She cut her first single for Decca Records in 1966, and five years later released her debut solo album, If Not for You, which included a hit version of the Bob Dylan-penned title-track.
Despite those early success, Newton-John wasn’t able to immediately solidify her space in music, straddling a space between country and pop. In 1973, however, she struck the perfect balance with “Let Me Be There,” a top 10 hit on both the country and pop charts that earned Newton-John her first Grammy (Best Female Country Vocal Performance) and the Academy of Country Music award for Most Promising Female Vocalist.
The following year was even bigger for Newton-John. First she represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest, finishing fourth with “Long Live Love.” (The winner that year? A little Swedish group called ABBA.) She then secured her first Number One hit in the U.S. with “I Honestly Love You,” which won Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female in 1975.
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