The singer and actress Olivia Newton-John, who became world famous with the musical adaptation "Grease" at the end of the 1970s, is dead.
The 73-year-old died "peacefully" on Monday surrounded by friends and family at their ranch in Southern California, her husband John Easterling announced. Newton-John ("Physical") had been battling cancer for decades. "Olivia has been a symbol of victory and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer," he wrote on the British-Australian artist and breast cancer campaigner's social media.
Her death caused great sorrow internationally. John Travolta (68) thought of his "Grease" colleague with loving words: "My dear Olivia, you have made all our lives so much better," wrote the US actor on Monday (local time) on Instagram. "Your influence has been incredible. I love you so much". Travolta signed his post with "Your Danny, your John!". Travolta and Newton-John played high school couple Danny and Sandy in the acclaimed 1978 musical film Grease.
Great sadness for the singer
"Too young to leave this world," wrote Barbra Streisand (80) on Instagram for a joint photo from the 1970s. "Another angelic voice has joined the heavenly choir," tweeted US singer Dionne Warwick (81), who once recorded a duet with Newton-John. British singer Rod Stewart (77) described her in a tweet as a "great friend" who had left. The skinny drainpipe pants she wore in "Grease" inspired his "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" era.
There was also great dismay in Australia, where many consider Newton-John "one of their own". A Today Australia TV presenter who knew her well broke down in tears in front of the cameras. Singer and actress Kylie Minogue credited her as a major inspiration in her life. "I've loved and looked up to Olivia Newton-John since I was 10 years old and always will be," wrote Minogue (54) on Twitter on Tuesday.
Actor Hugh Jackman wrote on Facebook that he was devastated. "It's no secret that Olivia was my first crush. I kissed her poster every night before bed," added the 53-year-old ("X-Men") on Facebook. Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted: "Olivia Newton-John was a star. A bright, joyful glow in our lives." Her voice is an "important part of the Australian soundtrack".
He loved "Grease" and her music, wrote "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn (56) on Twitter. She was his first big crush, he also said. Colleagues such as Mia Farrow, Antonio Banderas, George Takei and Brian Wilson also paid tribute to the deceased. Singer Melissa Etheridge (61) mourned a "wonderful woman" and a "special talent". Newton-John was one of the first to give encouragement after Etheridge's own cancer diagnosis became known.
She took herbal painkillers
For his own treatment, Newton-John relied on conventional medicine and cannabis products. Her husband is a plant expert who grows cannabis and prepares tinctures for her, said the American by choice in 2019 in a dpa interview. "I take it every day and that's how I got rid of strong painkillers." Easterling said her pioneering work with herbal healing methods will now continue with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation.
It's been over 40 years since Newton-John caused a sensation with her cheeky performance in the hit film musical "Grease". In 1978, as blond, curly-haired Sandy, she turned John Travolta's head in the role of the rebellious Danny - with a curly lard and sideburns. But years before she sang songs like "You're The One That I Want" in "Grease" with a ponytail, petty coat and Travolta in a duet, Newton-John was a star.
Born in Cambridge, England, the granddaughter of the German Nobel Prize winner in physics, Max Born, and the daughter of a college president who emigrated to Australia, founded a girls' band as a schoolgirl. A talent competition brought the 15-year-old back to Great Britain. In 1966 she recorded her first record there.
Her rise to Schlagerqueen
The folk singer became known primarily in the USA with her cuddly songs. "Let Me Be There" was her first US hit. Songs like "Banks of The Ohio", "If You Love Me Let Me Know", "I Honestly Love You" and "Have You Never Been Mellow" made her a pop queen there. After "Grease" she was back in front of the camera in 1980, for the fantasy musical "Xanadu" on roller skates to disco sounds with the hit songs "Xanadu", "Magic" and "Suddenly". A year later, the four-time Grammy winner released her most successful album, "Physical."
Her daughter from her marriage to dancer Matt Lattanzi was six years old when Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. She canceled tours and temporarily moved to Australia from her adopted home of California. The marriage broke up in 1995. In 2008 she married Easterling.
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