Veteran entertainer Olivia Newton-John died this morning (Aug. 8) at 73, following a long battle with breast cancer. A Facebook statement from her husband, John Easterling, added that John passed away surrounded by family and friends at her ranch in southern California.
First diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, John beat the disease on a number of occasions and funneled her energies into the Olivia Newton-John Foundation, an independent charity sponsoring global research into plant medicine for cancer.
John is best known for her starring role opposite John Travolta in the 1978 film Grease and her worldwide smash hit single from 1981, “Physical.” She was made a dame by Queen Elizabeth in 2019 for “services to charity, cancer research and entertainment.”
The artist was born Sept. 26, 1948, in Cambridge, England, and moved to Melbourne with her family at the age of six. She was performing on Australian TV shows by the age of 14 and released her first single, “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine,” in the U.K. through Decca in 1966.
Throughout the 1970s, she released a series of successful pop- and country-inflected albums and in 1974 represented the U.K. in the Eurovision Song Contest, placing fourth in a year that ABBA took home the top prize for “Waterloo.” Between 1974-6, Newton-John amassed seven consecutive No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart, including “I Honestly Love You,” “Please Mr. Please” and “Something Better To Do.”
Newton-John became a worldwide household name thanks to Grease, the top-performing film at the U.S. box office in 1978. The soundtrack was also huge seller, spawning three top 5 hits on The Billboard Hot 100, including Newtown-John’s No. 1 “You’re the One That I Want.”
Newton-John’s career cooled in the mid-1980s following “Physical,” the future cult-classic film Xanadu and the 1983 box-office flop Two of a Kind, which re-teamed her with Travolta. But she continued to record and perform even after her initial cancer diagnosis, and also became a well-known advocate for animal rights.