Andrew McMillen, in The Australian, 12 August 2022, where the ttile is different
Olivia Newton-John has died aged 73 after battling cancer for 30 years. The Australian singer, songwriter, actress, entrepreneur and activist passed away on Monday morning US local time surrounded by family and friends at her home in California, according to her husband.
Newton-John is best-known for starring in the 1978 musical Grease alongside John Travolta, as the-girl-next-door Sandy, who trades her ankle-length skirt and prim and proper hair for skin-tight black pants and a perm.
She went on to win four Grammys and had five number one hits and ten top ten hits. She also had two number one albums in the 1970s.
She was also passionate about the environment and animal rights, and devoted much of her time and celebrity to charities after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.
Her husband John Easterling said in a statement: “Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends. We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.
“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.
“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”.
A heartbroken John Travolta took to social media saying: “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much,” he wrote on Instagram.
“We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!”
Daughter Chloe Lattanzi shared a series of photos with her mother in the wake of her death. Three days ago, prior to her death, Lattanzi also shared a photo with her mum, calling the star her “best friend”.
Music legend Molly Meldrum said his heart was “broken” at the news. In a statement Meldrm said: “Tonight, the stars will shine a little brighter and I am heartbroken!
“Livvy, as I call her, was one of those rare people who had a profound effect on the world and the people in it. Her purity was real, her passion for life was unwavering.
“A Grammy Award winning record artist, an extraordinary wife, mother and humanitarian, Liv’s tireless work has changed millions of lives and her legacy will live on forever.
“To me, Liv is family. My heart is broken. There simply will never be another like her.”
Newton-John’s old friend John Farnham said: “The Farnham family send love and sympathies to Olivia’s family. Behind that iconic smile was a tenacious fighter. A beautiful voice and a loyal friend. She will be greatly missed.”
Delta Goodrem, who played her idol in the Hopelessly Devoted To You mini-series in 2018 said “the whole world will feel this heartbreak today because the entire world felt Olivia’s unmatched light.”
“A force for good. A force of nature. Strong and kind. My mentor, my friends, my inspiration, someone who always guided me…she was always there for me. Family to me. I don’t have all the words I would like to say but I hope everyone will join in celebrating our beloved Olivia, her heart, soul, talent, courage, grace…I love you forever.”
Kylie Minogue said she had looked up to ONJ since she was 10. “She was, and always will be, an inspiration to me in so many, many ways. My deepest condolences to her family and loved ones. x ONJ4EVER,’’ Minogue wrote on Tiwtter.
Singer Richard Marx also posted a heartfelt message.“My heart is broken. Rest now, sweet friend. You were as kind and loving a person as there’s ever been. I’ll miss you every day,” he wrote, ending his post with a broken heart.
Rick Springfield posted an adoring tribute to his friend.“Sweet Olivia has gone home. She was a beautiful soul and I know of no one who didn’t love her or know what a great humanitarian she was. The world is out of balance when we lose these magnificent people. God speed Livvy. We will all meet again,” he wrote.
The British-born and Australian-raised star dedicated a number of albums and concerts to raise funds for research and early detection of the disease, including the construction of a health centre named after her in her adopted home Melbourne.
“I don’t like to say ‘battled’,” a defiant Newton-John told Australia’s Channel Seven TV in September 2018 after revealing she had been diagnosed with cancer for a third time.
“I like to say ‘win over’, because ‘battled’ sets up this anger and inflammation that you don’t want.”
Her hit role as Sandy in Grease resonated with audiences worldwide, and continues to capture hearts decades after the movie was released. “Making it was fun but you never know with movies if audiences are going to go with it or not, even if you love it,” she said in a Forbes interview in 2018.
“It is incredible that it is still going but it’s not even just that, it’s showing no signs of stopping. You say “Sandy and Danny” and people instantly know what you’re talking about.” Grease remained the highest-grossing musical for three decades, with Newton-John and Travolta maintaining a close relationship long after the film was made.
“She was my favourite thing about doing Grease,” Travolta said in an interview to mark the film’s 40 anniversary in 2018.
There was no one else “in the universe” who could play Sandy, he said of Newton-John, who turned 29 during the making of Grease and later revealed she had to be convinced by Travolta to take up the role after self-doubts that she was too old to play a teenager.
“If you were a young man in the 70s…, if you remember that album cover with Olivia with that blue shirt on, with those big blue eyes staring at you,” Travolta recalled.
She performed into her late 60s, until her latest diagnosis, including a two-year residency in Vegas, a 2015 tour with Australian music legend John Farnham and even recording a Club Dance track at 67 with her daughter Chloe Lattanzi.
“I have done everything, and the icing on the cake as well,” she said, reflecting on her career.
“So I feel grateful for anything that happens now.”
One of Newton-John’s final appearances in Australia was less than three months before her death, when she was inducted into the honour roll at the Australian Women in Music Awards (AWMA) on May 18.
At an event held at The Tivoli theatre in Brisbane, an audience of hundreds watched a video message that the singer had recorded from her home in Los Angeles.
“Hi everyone, this is Olivia Newton-John, and I am so proud to have just accepted the award for this year, following after some of my favourite singers in Helen Reddy and Judith Durham,” she said, referring to previous AWMA honour roll inductees in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
“I am so thrilled and grateful to accept this award, and I want to encourage everyone to support the work of the Australian Women in Music Awards, because diversity is everything, and there are so many talented women who have never thought about going into a certain area of the music industry – not just as singers, but as producers, engineers, technicians,” she said. “There’s a whole world waiting for them; once one person does it, others will follow. Lead by example. Thank you so much.”
In a strange twist of fate, all three AWMA honour roll inductees are now deceased: Reddy died in September 2020, aged 78, while Durham died in Melbourne on Friday last week, aged 79, as a result of complications from a long-standing chronic lung disease.
At the event in May, following Newton-John’s video message, incoming arts minister Tony Burke said, “With people we’re so proud of in this country, we often use the phrases ‘golden boy’ or ‘golden girl’; to describe Olivia as the golden girl of Australian music would be to raise the value of gold.”
“For the joy, for the friendship that has been offered; for the advocacy, for the care: Olivia is one of those reasons that we’re so proud to be Australian,” said Burke.
In tribute to Newton-John’s induction at the Australian Women in Music Awards, acclaimed singer-songwriter Tina Arena then performed a stirring cover of I Honestly Love You, the Peter Allen/Jeff Barry composition that became her first No.1 hit in the US in October 1974, and went on to win Grammy Awards for record of the year and best female pop vocal performance in 1975.