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)

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FAQs

Are Olivia Newton John and John Travolta still friends? ›

It was a huge response. I feel grateful to be a part of that and to have worked with him. We've stayed friends ever since.” Travolta always took the time to reach out to her when things were tough, she said.

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

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

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.

Who passed away from Grease? ›

Edd Byrnes (Vic Fontaine) died in January 2020

Edd Byrnes, who played TV dance show host Vic Fontaine in "Grease," was known for more than his flirty prom scene in the hit film. While his character in "Grease" had eyes for Dinah Manoff's Marty Maraschino, two decades earlier, young fans had their eyes on him.

What John Travolta said about Olivia? ›

Actor John Travolta, who co-starred with Olivia Newton-John in the hit movie musical “Grease,” has posted a statement in tribute to the late singer. “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better,” the actor wrote on Instagram. “Your impact was incredible. I love you so much.”

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

Olivia Newton-John was five years older than John Travolta

He was born on February 18, 1954, according to his IMDb page, while Olivia Newton-John was 28 years old, having been born on September 26, 1948.

Why do they fly off at the end of Grease? ›

The theory also suggests that the infamous flying car represents Sandy's ascent into heaven, as opposed to a symbolic happy ending for her. The theory gained enough popularity that John Travolta addressed it in 2016, and Grease creator Jim Jacobs finally rebuked the theory to TMZ.

How did Sandy from Grease died? ›

Olivia Newton-John, Pop Songstress Who Wowed as Sandy in Grease, Dies at 73. The British Australian chanteuse, best known for starring in the 1978 musical blockbuster, had stage IV metastatic breast cancer.

What disease does Olivia Newton-John have? ›

Newton-John, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, died Monday in California. The cause of death is not immediately known She was 73 and is survived by her husband, John Easterling, and her daughter Chloe Lattanzi.

Has Olivia from Grease died? ›

Did Olivia John have children? ›

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.

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 Frenchy from Grease still alive? ›

"Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends," the statement began.

Who turned down the role of Danny Zuko in Grease? ›

Henry Winkler played Fonzie, the most famous greaser on television and he almost played Danny Zuko, the most famous greaser in the history of movies. However, Winkler turned down the lead role in Grease for a very specific reason. In addition, he's opened up about his feelings toward Grease's lead actor, John Travolta.

Was Rizzo pregnant in Grease? ›

At the end of the school year, a carnival is held; Rizzo is seen on a Ferris wheel, revealing to Kenickie that she isn't pregnant.

How did John Travolta react to Olivia Newton-John death? ›

John Travolta took to Instagram on Monday (Aug. 8) to mourn the loss of his Grease co-star, Olivia Newton-John, who died earlier in the day at age 73. My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better,” he sweetly wrote alongside a throwback photo of the iconic actress. “Your impact was incredible.

What did John Travolta tweet about Olivia Newton-John? ›

Almost immediately, her friend and famous co-star John Travolta responded with a short but emotional post. “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible,” he wrote alongside a photo of a young Newton-John. “I love you so much.

Did John Travolta do a tribute to Olivia Newton-John? ›

Yesterday, on what would have been the actress's 74th birthday, Travolta shared a sweet birthday tribute to her on his Instagram Story. "Happy birthday my Olivia," he wrote over a throwback photo of the two wearing their iconic skintight all-black looks on the set of Grease.

Did John and Olivia ever date? ›

Although John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John had undeniable on-screen chemistry and admitted to feeling sexual tension in real life, the two stars maintain that they have never dated.

How old was Travolta when he filmed Grease? ›

John Travolta was 23 when "Grease" was filmed in 1977.

However, Travolta — who had already starred in "Saturday Night Fever" when "Grease" came out — was still younger than some of his castmates.

Who was the youngest cast member of Grease? ›

In fact, the youngest of the main cast members was Kelly Ward, who was 20 at the time of filming. Ward played Putzie, who was supposed to be around 17 or 18 in Grease.

Why is the picture blurred in Grease? ›

Ever wonder why there's a weird blurred out poster in the scene where Sandy and Danny meet up at the Frosty Palace? It's because it was a Coca-Cola advertisement, and Paramount had made a deal with Pepsi for product placement in the film, and the Coke poster had to go.

What is the moral of Grease? ›

Grease (1978) Message: Change yourself for the person you want to be with.

What does Annette mean in Grease? ›

The answer is actually much more interesting. "Annette" is Annette Joanne Funicello, a '50s movie starlet and one of the original members of the Mickey Mouse Club. Funicello was known for her curves, having played many "Hot Chick" roles in beach/surfer movies.

Is Sandy in a coma? ›

Sandy was very much alive,” at the movie's end, he confirms, putting the final nail in the coffin of this bizarre scenario.

Was the movie Grease a dream? ›

Anyway, according to the Internet theory, the entire “Grease” story is actually the result of Sandy really drowning, the film's plot a fever dream as she lay dying on the beach, fantasizing about a romance with “Danny,” the stranger on the beach trying and failing to save her life.

How old was Sandy from Grease when she died? ›

What is considered a partial mastectomy? ›

Listen to pronunciation. (PAR-shul ma-STEK-toh-mee) Surgery to remove cancer or other abnormal tissue from the breast and some normal tissue around it, but not the breast itself. Some lymph nodes under the arm may be removed for biopsy.

Did Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta date? ›

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.

Where Will Olivia be buried? ›

Olivia Newton-John's final wish to have ashes scattered in Byron Bay | news.com.au — Australia's leading news site.

Is Olivia Newton dead? ›

What was Olivia Newton-John Worth when she died? ›

Dame Olivia Newton-John AC DBE was a British actress, singer, author, and producer who had a net worth of $60 million at the time of her death. Olivia Newton-John died on August 8, 2022 at the age of 73.

Does Olivia Newton-John have a partner? ›

Olivia Newton-John

How long was Olivia married to Matt? ›

They were married for 11 years

Olivia and Matt got married in 1984 after meeting on the set of Xanadu, which they both starred in.

How old was Olivia Newton-John when she had her baby? ›

Dame Olivia was 38-years-old when pregnant with Chloe, and was closely monitored at the time, before her daughter safely arrived in 1986. During the interview, the Physical singer also spoke about contemplating death, something she thought to be 'extremely personal'.

How rich is Travolta? ›

John Travolta is an American actor and singer who has a net worth $250 million. Let's talk about some money. Only 2 homes of John Travolta are worth around $25 million. Not only this, he has an aviation state where there is a runway on which his jumbo jet lands.

Who gets Olivia Newton-John's money? ›

Instead, records show that the singer transferred ownership of the estate to her husband John Easterling, who then re-financed the mortgage with $2.5 million left on the home.

Is Koala Blue still in business? ›

Sadly, this chain of shops is no longer; Koala Blue shuttered in 1993, as it was unable to weather the ongoing recession at the time.

Did Olivia Newton-John have a relationship with John Travolta? ›

In the book, the actress also cleared up speculation about whether they shared an off-screen relationship, saying that it "never went beyond friendship with John". She said: "On the Grease set, he would tell me, 'Liv, it's every guy's dream to have you as his girlfriend'.

What did John Travolta say about Olivia Newton-John Death? ›

John Travolta took to Instagram on Monday (Aug. 8) to mourn the loss of his Grease co-star, Olivia Newton-John, who died earlier in the day at age 73. My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better,” he sweetly wrote alongside a throwback photo of the iconic actress. “Your impact was incredible.

Who was Olivia Newton-John's best friend? ›

'I just feel privileged to have known her': Olivia Newton-John's best friend Susan George pays moving tribute to the late Grease star as she recalls their last conversation. Olivia Newton-John's lifelong friend of almost 60 years Susan George has paid a heartfelt tribute to the late actress.

Are the cast of Grease still friends? ›

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John met through their roles as Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson in "Grease," but their real-life friendship went far beyond the hit 1978 musical film. The costars continued to remain close in the years that followed the movie's release.

Who was the youngest cast member of Grease? ›

Kelly Ward was the youngest of the main cast members at 20.

Ward was only two or three years older than his character, making for the most realistic portrayal of a high school student among the main cast.

How old was Travolta when he filmed Grease? ›

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

Travolta was 22 years old during the filming of 'Grease' and Newton-John was 28 at the time the movie was being made.

How rich is Travolta? ›

John Travolta is an American actor and singer who has a net worth $250 million. Let's talk about some money. Only 2 homes of John Travolta are worth around $25 million. Not only this, he has an aviation state where there is a runway on which his jumbo jet lands.

Did John and Olivia ever date? ›

Did Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta date in real life? Despite numerous rumours to the contrary – and some steamy pictures of the pair kissing at a party in 1978 (below) – there has been no romance between the two stars.

Were Jane Seymour and Olivia Newton-John friends? ›

Olivia Newton-John's close friend Jane Seymour joins the show to talk about their decades-long friendship and embracing Olivia's positive light.

How long was Olivia married to John? ›

Olivia Newton-John was married to John Easterling

At the time of her death, Olivia was married to John Easterling. The couple wed in 2008 and were married for 14 years. They secretly wed in Peru on June 21, 2008 and held another marriage ceremony in Florida on June 30.

Is Frenchy from Grease still alive? ›

"Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends," the statement began.

Is Sandy from Grease still alive? ›

NEW YORK -- Olivia Newton-John, the Grammy-winning superstar who reigned on pop, country, adult contemporary and dance charts with such hits as “Physical” and “You're the One That I Want” and won countless hearts as everyone's favorite Sandy in the blockbuster film version of “Grease,” has died. She was 73.

What school was Grease filmed at? ›

Filmmakers shot the movie thousands of miles away at Venice High School and Huntington Park High School in California. In addition to coming to the streaming world with Grease: Rydell High, Grease's cinematic universe will also be heading back to theaters.

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