Olivia Newton-John Dead at 73

    Olivia Newton-John has died at the age of 73. Her husband, John Easterling, confirmed the news in a post on the singer’s social media. “Dame Olivia Newton-John passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends,” he wrote. “We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.”

    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 Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund (ONJFoundationFund.org).

    Olivia is survived by her husband John Easterling; daughter Chloe Lattanzi; sister Sarah Newton-John; brother Toby Newton-John; nieces and nephews Tottie, Fiona and Brett Goldsmith; Emerson, Charlie, Zac, Jeremy, Randall, and Pierz Newton-John; Jude Newton-Stock, Layla Lee; Kira and Tasha Edelstein; and Brin and Valerie Hall.

    Although born in Cambridge, England, Newton-John grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where her father worked as a German professor and as the headmaster of Ormond College. During her teenage years, she formed an all-female vocal group called the Sol Four along with three school friends. After the group split up, Newton-John entered and won a talent contest on the television program Sing, Sing, Sing that earned her a trip to London, where she formed a duo with another Australian singer, Pat Carroll, who left Britain once her visa expired. Newton-John then recorded her first single, a version of Jackie DeShannon’s ‘Till You Say You’ll Be Mine’, for Decca Records in 1966.

    Newton-John would go on to join Toomorrow, a bubblegum group formed by producer Don Kirshner that starred in the science fiction musical film of the same name and scored one minor British hit, ‘I Could Never Live Without Your Love’, in 1970. Newton-John’s first solo album, If Not for You, came out a year later. Its first single, a rendition of Bob Dylan’s ‘If Not for You’, became her first international hit, with its follow-up, ‘Banks of the Ohio’, reaching the Top 10 in the UK and Australia.

    Although her second UK album, Olivia, never saw an official release in the US, the title track to her next album, Let Me Be There, was a huge success, winning her a Grammy Award for Best Country Female. A series of hit singles followed, including ‘If You Love Me (Let Me Know)’, ‘I Honestly Love You’, ‘Have You Never Been Mellow’, and ‘Please Mr. Please’. After moving to Los Angeles in 1974, Newton-John won the Female Vocalist of the Year award from the Country Music Association; her success in the genre sparked controversy among the industry’s purists, with many members of the CMA quitting the organization in protest.

    In 1978, Newton-John’s career skyrocketed when she starred in the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease opposite John Travolta. Its soundtrack album spent 12 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 and spawned three massive hits: ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’, ‘Summer Nights’, and ‘You’re the One That I Want’, which topped both the US and British charts. Later that year, Newton-John released her next record, Totally Hot, which boasted a mix of soft rock and disco. Her first film appearance after Grease was in Xanadu with Gene Kelly and Michael Beck; although the film was not a success, its soundtrack – which featured ‘Magic’, the the title track with ELO, and the Cliff Richard duet ‘Suddenly’ – was a hit.

    Newton-John continued shifting her image and leaned more towards rock with her next album, Physical. It became her biggest commercial success, yielding the hugely popular title song as well as ‘Make a Move on Me’, a Top 10 hit. She went on to star in another film with John Travolta, the 1983 comedy Two of a Kind; the movie bombed, but a song recorded for it, ‘Twist of Fate’, was another hit. Following her marriage with actor Matt Lattanzi, Newton-John released Soul Kiss, which had a more lukewarm reception. In 1986, she had her daughter Chloe and went on a nearly three-year hiatus, returning in 1988 with the album The Rumour. Her daughter appeared on the cover of her subequent children’s recordm Warm and Tender.

    In 1992, shortly after releasing her third hits collection, Back to Basics: The Essential Collection 1971–1992, Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer. She recovered after undergoing treatment over the next year and became an advocate for breast cancer research and other health issues. She was also devoted to several environmental and animal rights causes, having canceled a 1978 tour of Japan to protest the killing of dolphins caught in tuna fishing nets. In 2008, she opened the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia. In 2012, she reunited with Travolta for a holiday charity album called This Christmas and starred in the Australian comedy A Few Best Men. A few years later, she teamed up with Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman for the inspirational album LIVE ON. In January of last year, she released a new song, ‘Window in the Wall’, which was recorded with her daughter Chloe.

    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis is a writer, journalist, and music editor at Our Culture. His work has also appeared in Pitchfork, GIGsoup, and other publications. He currently lives in Athens, Greece.

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