Legendary singer and actress Olivia Newton-John has passed away at the age of 73.
Olivia Newton-John, one of the biggest pop stars in the 1970s and early 1980s, has died at the age of 73. She died on Monday at her ranch in southern California, according to her husband, John Easterling, in a post on her official Facebook page.
“Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” it reads in part.
Newton-John was born in England in 1948. She grew up in Australia, and started her performing career as a teenager. A regular on local radio and TV shows, she won a talent contest and ended up recording country-pop songs in the U.S.
For “Let me Be There,” she won her first Grammy award in 1973. The following year, she earned two Grammys for “I Honestly Love You.” Mellow pop songs became Newton-John’s stock in trade, but she won her fourth Grammy in 1982 for the suggestive single “Let’s Get Physical.”
The song made her uncomfortable, Newton-John told NPR in 2012. “I thought it was a great song, but then had a panic attack and called my manager and said, ‘You can’t put this out, it’s too over the top and it’s too risque,’ ” she said, only to learn it had already gone to the radio.
It was Newton-John’s idea to make the video for the song about exercise, she said, and she wore a sweatband, leotards and legwarmers.
After her other hits – such as “Magic” — and other movies, such as Xanadu, Newton-John dropped out of the spotlight to raise her daughter, and promote causes such as environmentalism and breast cancer awareness, after she was diagnosed with the disease. She treated it, she said, with alternative therapies, medical marijuana, humor and optimism.
Olivia Newton-John was a Country Universe favorite, and the first artist to be featured in our career-spanning retrospective series:
She was included in both of our 100 Greatest Women countdowns, ranking at #55 in the most recent list:
One of the biggest female country stars of the seventies became one quite accidentally. Her mere presence in country music infuriated traditionalists, but her pop-flavored country foreshadowed the boundary blurring recordings of future genre-straddling stars like Dolly Parton, Shania Twain and Taylor Swift.
Her career was astonishing and her talent ran deep.
On a personal note, this is the deepest feeling of loss that I’ve ever felt when an artist passed away.
Olivia Newton-John was the first artist that I ever fell in love with, and in turn, she was the reason I fell in love with music, which has been a source of inspiration, strength, and solace throughout my entire life.
I didn’t have a lot of friends when I was young, but I had a VHS tape of Olivia in Concert, copied from HBO by one of my parents. I watched it every day. I rented the Twist of Fate video collection from the local rental shop. Every few weeks, I bought another one of her old albums from the music sections at Alexander’s and Woolworth’s and other department stores of days gone by. She was the soundtrack to my childhood. I was often lonely but never truly alone because I had her music. What a tremendous gift that was.
Because of Olivia, it made total sense to me that someone could do country and pop. To this day, I love both pop music and country music and could care less about any lines artificially drawn between them. My favorite artists are the ones that change their style from album to album, always trying out new sounds and following their muse wherever it takes them. I can’t be bothered with debates about authenticity. I want sincerity. That’s why I loved her music, and what I still look for today when discovering artists. It’s hard to find.
By all accounts, Olivia Newton-John was a kind, warm, and generous human being. She saw her true life’s work as her cancer center, and her musical career as the gift God gave her so that she could help others. Her priorities were correctly ordered, even if it has meant her musical legacy hasn’t been fully appreciated. She really was one of the all-time greats: a fantastically gifted singer, a captivating live performer, and a criminally underrated songwriter.
The retrospective linked above has several parts, all with their own playlists, so instead of creating a new one for this thread, I’m just going to share the HBO concert below. When you have the time, enjoy watching a brilliant artist at the peak of her fame, radiating joy as she sings hit after hit after hit.
We send our deepest condolences to her family, friends, and fans.