Singer Olivia Newton-John, who soared to the top of the world’s pop music charts in the 1970s and 1980s and starred in the hit movie musical “Grease,” died on Monday at age 73 at her home in Southern California.
The death of the British-born, Australian-raised performer was announced on her Instagram account, saying she “passed away peacefully” at her ranch home “surrounded by family and friends.”
Newton-John, a four-time Grammy winner, had disclosed several years ago that breast cancer had metastasized and spread to her back, forcing her to cancel performances. Twenty-five years earlier, Newton-John had undergone a partial mastectomy and gone on to establish a cancer treatment-research facility in Australia.
Movie Stardom With ‘Grease’
Newton-John co-starred with John Travolta in “Grease,” the 1978 film that would become one of the most popular musicals in Hollywood history.
Producer Allan Carr wanted Newton-John to play the female lead Sandy after being impressed by her at a dinner party, and Travolta also urged her to take the part. Newton-John was initially reluctant because of her negative experience in the awkwardly titled 1970 British film flop “Toomorrow” and worried about hurting her singing career. She also was concerned about doing an American accent, so the part was rewritten to make Sandy an Australian.
She made another movie with Travolta, “Two of a Kind” in 1983, and they recorded an album of Christmas songs in 2012.
Newton-John, whose sister died of brain cancer, became an advocate after her first bout with breast cancer and she established the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. She also marketed what was known as the Olivia Breast Self-Exam Kit.
Newton-John, whose grandfather was German-born Nobel laureate Max Born, a physicist, finished fourth in the 1974 Eurovision singing competition while representing the United Kingdom.
Her first marriage, to “Xanadu” actor Matt Lattanzi, ended in divorce in 1995, and in 2008 she married businessman John Easterling.