Olivia Newton-John, Beloved ‘Grease’ Actress & Singer, Dies at 73 (2023)

Olivia Newton-John, Beloved ‘Grease’ Actress & Singer, Dies at 73 (1)

Olivia Newton-John, beloved actress and singer best known for her role as Sandy Olsson inGrease and for a long string of hits topped by 1981’s “Physical,” died on Monday (Aug. 8). She was 73.

Her official Facebook page confirmed the news, noting: “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.”

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The post 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).”

(Video) Olivia Newton-John, singer and actress, dead at 73

Newton-John was one of the most popular recording artists of the 1970s and 1980s. She was also a notably nimble artist – moving from early country music hits like “Let Me Be There” to mainstream pop hits like “Have You Never Been Mellow” to sexier, edgier fare like “Make a Move on Me.”

She was also one of the first artists to have significant success in video. She won a Grammy for music video of the year for her 1982 collection “Olivia Physical.” She was only the second artist to win a Grammy for video, following Michael Nesmith for “Michael Nesmith in Elephant Parts.”

Newton-John amassed five No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Physical,” which was only the second song in Hot 100 history (following Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life”) to log 10 weeks at No. 1.

In 1975, she became just the second female solo artist to land back-to-back No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200. She topped the chart with both If You Love Me, Let Me Know (1974) and her follow-up, Have You Never Been Mellow (1975). At that time, Carole King was the only other female solo artist to achieve that feat. The former Brill Building songwriter turned solo superstar hit No. 1 with Tapestry (1971) and her follow-up, Music (1972).

Newton-John also starred with John Travolta in the blockbuster Grease, which was the top-grossing film of 1978. The film soundtrack spent 12 weeks atop the Billboard 200 and wound up with a Grammy nomination for album of the year.

Newton-John was born Sept. 26, 1948, in Cambridge, England, but was raised in Melbourne, Australia. At age 16, she won a talent contest trip to England. She sang with Pat Carroll as Pat & Olivia. She also sang with the group Toomorrow in a British movie of the same name.

Newton-John landed her first hit in 1971 with a wistful cover version of Bob Dylan’s “If Not for You.” The song reached No. 25 on the Hot 100 in September 1971. But her immediate follow-ups fell short. She made her first sustained impression on the charts starting in 1973 as a pop-country singer. She had seven top 10 hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, climbing as high as No. 2 on that chart with the jaunty “If You Love Me (Let Me Know).”

(Video) Olivia Newton-John, Beloved ‘Grease’ Actress & Singer, Dies at 73 | Billboard News

She won several major awards for country — a Grammy for best country vocal performance, female for “Let Me Be There,” an ACM Award for most promising female vocalist of 1973 and a CMA Award for female vocalist of the year for 1974. (She also received CMA nominations that year for entertainer of the year, album of the year and single of the year.) But there were detractors too who felt that she and John Denver were pop artists who were invading their space.

In 1974, her elegant (critics invariably said “melodramatic”) recording of “I Honestly Love You” became her first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100. It went on to win Grammys for record of the year and best pop vocal performance, female. Newton-John was the first female vocalist to win Grammys for both country and pop. Three other women — Anne Murray, Linda Ronstadt and k.d. lang — have since followed her lead.

Newton-John’s follow-up single, “Have You Never Been Mellow,” also topped the Hot 100. It was written, as were many of her hits, by John Farrar, an underrated songwriter who perfectly understood Newton-John’s voice and appeal. He singlehandedly wrote five of Newton-John’s 15 top 10 hits: “Have You Never Been Mellow,” “You’re the One That I Want,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “A Little More Love” and “Magic.” He also teamed with Tom Snow to write a sixth, “Make a Move on Me.”

In addition to her four Grammy Awards, Newton-John set records at the American Music Awards. She was the first woman to win favorite female pop vocalist four times. That stood as the record until Whitney Houston tied it in 1993. Taylor Swift made it a three-way tie when she won her fourth award in the category in 2019. Swift has since won twice more to set a new record.

Few remember now, but Newton-John’s pop recording career had cooled just a bit in 1976 and 1977. Grease, released in 1978, took her to a new level of stardom. The album gave her three top five hits, “You’re the One That I Want,” an exhilarating collab with Travolta that reached No. 1; “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” a sublime solo ballad that climbed to No. 3; and “Summer Nights,” another collab with Travolta (joined this time by the Grease cast), which reached No. 5.

“Hopelessly Devoted to You” received an Oscar nomination for best original song. In April 1979, Newton-John performed the song on the Oscar telecast.

(Video) Beloved singer and actress Olivia Newton-John dies at age 73

In 1980, she starred in another film, Xanadu, which was not a box-office hit, though it spawned a hit soundtrack album (No. 4 on the Billboard 200) and gave Newton-John two more top 10 hits, “Magic,” a lovely, midtempo ballad that spent four weeks at No. 1, and “Xanadu,” a spirited collab with Electric Light Orchestra that reached No. 8.

Grease probably extended the peak of Newton-John’s career by at least five years. Like her character in Grease, Newton-John shed her sweet, rather bland image and adopted a sexier, more contemporary persona and recorded rhythmic, midtempo tracks that were miles away from “Have You Never Been Mellow.”

The most obvious result was “Physical,” which was rather risqué for its time. The twist ending in the music video, in which two gay guys hold hands, was progressive for its time when it was released in 1981. (The video for Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” more than 30 years later, used a similar “surprise” twist ending.)

Several of Newton-John’s Hot 100 hits were collaborations. In addition to her aforementioned team-ups with Travolta and ELO, she teamed with Andy Gibb for the Barry Gibb-written ballad “I Can’t Help It” (1980), Cliff Richard for “Suddenly” (also from Xanadu) and David Foster for “The Best of Me,” which Foster co-wrote with Jeremy Lubbock and a pre-fame Richard Marx. She also sang an uncredited backing vocal on John Denver’s “Fly Away,” a lovely 1975 ballad from Denver’s Windsong, a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.

Newton-John also headlined a series of TV specials for ABC, includingA Special Olivia Newton-John,Olivia Newton John–Hollywood NightsandOlivia Newton John: Let’s Get Physical. All three received Emmy nominations in technical categories.

Newton-John landed her 15th and final top 10 hit on the Hot 100 in January 1984 with “Twist of Fate,” from the film Two of a Kind, in which she reunited with Travolta. But then, rather suddenly, her run was over. Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Houston and a new generation of female stars took over.

Newton-John’s last three hits on the Hot 100 (or the Hot 100 Airplay chart) were new twists on her old hits. In 1996, she and Travolta scored an airplay hit with “The Grease Megamix.” In 1998, she scored with a new, country-edged version of “I Honestly Love You,” co-produced by Foster and Tony Brown. In 2010, she joined the Glee Cast for a revival of “Physical.”

(Video) Beloved singer, actress Olivia Newton-John dies at 73

Newton-John 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.

Within hours of her death, her old co-star and friend John Travolta posted on Instagram: “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 first moment I saw you and forever!” He signed it “Your Danny, your John!”

Rania Aniftos assisted in the preparation of this story.

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Olivia Newton-John, Beloved ‘Grease’ Actress & Singer, Dies at 73 (2)

(Video) Olivia Newton-John dies aged 73: John Travolta leads tributes to Grease star | ITV News

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Olivia Newton-John, Beloved ‘Grease’ Actress & Singer, Dies at 73? ›

"Dame Olivia Newton-John 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," her husband, John Easterling, wrote in a statement on the singer's verified Instagram account.

What was the cause of death for Olivia Newton-John? ›

Olivia Newton-John died Aug. 8 after a long journey with breast cancer, which was first diagnosed in 1992, according to a statement from her husband, John Easterling. She was 73.

Does Olivia Newton-John have a child? ›

Newton-John has one child, a daughter named Chloe Rose Lattanzi. She shares Chloe with ex-husband, Matt Lattanzi, whom she was married to from 1984 to 1995. Newton-John married her second husband, John Easterling, in 2008. They were married until her death in 2022.

Did Olivia Newton-John have a daughter? ›

Olivia Newton-John's daughter Chloe Lattanzi is trying to see the silver-lining in grief after her mother's passing earlier this month. The singer shared a moving quote from author Jamie Anderson on her Instagram account on Sunday that read, “Grief, I've learned, is really just love.

Did Olivia Newton-John Date John Travolta? ›

They were the subject of persistent romance rumors after they steamed up screens in 1978's “Grease.” But Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta never got physical while filming the movie musical, and instead went on to share a 44-year friendship that remained strictly platonic.

How old was Olivia Newton-John when she filmed Grease? ›

'Grease' was a huge hit in 1978 and is still popular today

'Grease' was a box office success and Newton-John and Travolta received rave reviews from the film critics. Travolta was 22 years old during the filming of 'Grease' and Newton-John was 28 at the time the movie was being made.

How old was Olivia Newton-John when she did Grease? ›

How rich is Olivia Newton-John? ›

The foundation is just one part of Newton-John's legacy. She had a net worth of roughly $60 million when she passed, Celebrity Net Worth reported.

Is Olivia Newton-John related to Elton John? ›

No, Olivia Newton-John and Elton John are not related. Even though they have the same last name and are both from England, the two singers are not related.

Was Olivia Newton-John married to John Travolta? ›

"We were both with other people when we were filming and I think, respectfully, it just didn't happen," she explained. "So I think it was just as well that it didn't happen. But we're still great friends." John Travolta himself has since spoken about the real-life chemistry he had with Olivia Newton-John.

Who is Olivia Newton-John's baby daddy? ›

Matthew Vincent Lattanzi (born February 1, 1959) is an American former actor and dancer.
Matt Lattanzi
Years active1980–1993
Spouse(s)Olivia Newton-John ​ ​ ( m. 1984; div. 1995)​ Cindy Jessup ​ ​ ( m. 1997; div. 2007)​
ChildrenChloe Lattanzi
2 more rows

What years was Grease based on? ›

A musical about teens in love in the '50s! It's California 1959 and greaser Danny Zuko and Australian Sandy Olsson are in love. They spend time at the beach, and when they go back to school, what neither of them knows is that they both now attend Rydell High.

How old was Olivia Newton-John when she died? ›

She was 73. “Dame Olivia Newton-John passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends.

Did the cast of Grease get along? ›

The Grease cast built strong relationships while filming. Though the iconic movie debuted more than 40 years ago, the co-stars have all remained close, reuniting multiple times since 1978.

Did John and Olivia ever date? ›

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta didn't date

Speaking on the No Filter podcast in 2018, Olivia revealed they never dated because they were both in a relationship at the time. “We were both with other people when we were filming and I think, respectfully, it just didn't happen,” she said.

Where was Grease filmed? ›

Grease was shot in Los Angeles, Burbank, and Malibu, California, USA. Filming locations included John Marshall High School, Venice High School, Huntington Park High School, and Leo Carrillo State Beach. Malibu, CA. Photo by Daniela Andrade on Unsplash.

What is the age difference between John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John? ›

Olivia Newton-John was five years older than John Travolta.

How old was Frenchy in Grease? ›

The cast, however, were far from teenagers. As Metro highlighted, Travolta was 23 years old at the time while Newton-John was 28. At 33, Stockard Channing, aka Rizzo, was the oldest "teenager" cast in the film. When Didi Conn landed the role of Frenchy in Grease, she was 27.

How old were the cast of Grease during filming? ›

John Travolta was 23 at the time that he played 18-year-old Danny Zuko, while Newton-John was 29 – more than 10 years older than Sandy, who was written to be 17 or 18 years old. Stockard Channing, who played Rizzo, the leader of the Pink Ladies, was 33 at the time of filming, making her the oldest of the main cast.

Where is Rydell High supposed to be Grease? ›

Rydell High is actually three different real Los Angeles high schools. The facade is Venice High School, the interior is Huntington Park High School, and the field is John Marshall High School. Sandy and Danny at the school dance.

How old was Sandy in Grease? ›

Sandy Olsson, Danny's love interest, is 17 or 18 in "Grease."


1. Olivia Newton-John Dead at 73
(Entertainment Tonight)
2. Olivia Newton-John, superstar singer and actor, dies at 73
(Associated Press)
3. Olivia Newton-John Dead at 73: The Star and 'Grease' Icon Dies of Breast Cancer | PEOPLE
4. Olivia Newton-John dead at 73. Look back at her iconic moments
5. Olivia Newton-John, star of Grease, dead at 73
(CBC News: The National)
6. Singer, actress Olivia Newton-John dies at 73
(CBS New York)
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