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Grease Star, Pop Icon Olivia Newton-John Passes Away

August 8, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Olivia Newton-John Grease Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Olivia Newton-John, the pop singer who became a film icon with her role in Grease, has passed away. Newton-John’s husband John Easterling announced via her Facebook page on Monday that she had passed this morning at her ranch in Southern California. She was 73 years old.

Easterling wrote:

“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. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund (

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.

– via John Easterling, husband, Olivia Newton-John”

Newton-John had a lengthy career that spanned almost six decades in music and film, but she is most strongly remembered for two things: her role in 1978’s Grease as Sandy Olsson, which pushed her career to new heights, and her iconic 1981 dance-pop workout jam “Physical.” The one-two punch of those works made her a worldwide household name in some ways helped define the era’s pop culture trends.

Born in Cambridge, England but emigrating with her family to Australia at the age of six, Newton-John began her music career at the young age of 14 as a member of an all-girl group for a short time. She began appearing on local Australian TV shows and won a talent contest on Sing, Sing, Sing when she was 17, which she was convinced to use the money from to travel to England. She worked in various groups and duos until she recorded her first solo album If Not for You, which released in 1971. Her sound was country and country pop for the early parts of her career, which brought some controversy in the US about authenticity regarding foreign-born artists performing country music, particularly when she beat out Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker to win the Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year in 1974.

She moved to the US and continued to find increased success throughout the 1970s, even as she ended up embroiled in a lawsuit against MCA Records regarding her contract. MCA had her under contract to release two albums a year over two years but had the option of extending the contract for three more years, and if she did not deliver the albums on time they could extend the contract length. Both sides sued each other for breach of contract after her fourth album under the deal, Making a Good Thing Better, was late. Newton-John ended up being forbidden from signing with another label until the five-year deal completed and the lawsuit caused record companies to change their contracts to be based on a set number of albums, not a specific number of years.

1978 saw Newton-John catapulted to new heights by her role as Sandy in Grease. The film was a massive hit and the soundtrack album was huge as well, making Newton-John only the second person to have two singles in the Billboard Top 5 at the same time (“Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “Summer Nights”). She was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Musical, and Grease to this day remains one of the most well-known and beloved movie musicals.

In addition to new levels of stardom, Grease marked another change in Newton-John: her image. The actress was emboldened by Sandy’s transformation in the film and she decided to do the same for herself, transitioning from country to pure pop. She found immediate success from that as Totally Hot became a top-10 album. But it was the album, 1981’s Physical, that would become her greatest LP. Spurred by the title track, the album sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The music video for “Physical” certainly helped, with a sexual playfulness that caused it to be banned in some countries.

While she would never find that level of success again — her career slowed down after the follow-up album Soul Kiss failed to catch on — Newton-John remained a consistent performer. She also continued to make forays into acting, with movies such as 1980s Xanadu and 1996’s It’s My Party. She became an advocate for health issues after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and did her part to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research for the rest of her life. She also worked as an activist for environmental and animal rights causes.

On behalf of 411, our condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Mrs. Newton-John. She will be missed.

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Olivia Newton-John, Jeremy Thomas