Olivia Newton-John, the sunny, buoyant English-Australian pop icon who sold over 100 million records, died on August 8 at her home in Southern California after a long and valiant battle with cancer. Her husband, John Easterling, announced her passing on Instagram, noting that "Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer... In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the @onjfoundation."
Newton-John became an inspiring example of how to live and age well despite illness, continuing to work as a singer, actress and activist after her diagnoses. She guest-starred twice on Glee in 2010, did over 40 Las Vegas shows in 2014 and performed to help raise $50 million to fight Australia’s wildfires in 2020. In 2019, she received a damehood — equivalent to a knighthood — from the Queen of England for her services to charity, cancer research and entertainment.
“I think I’ve done it all — and more,” she told AARP in 2019. “I had icing and cream on the icing, and candles on top of that. I’ve achieved everything I could have possibly dreamed of. I’m very grateful.”
She had her first top-10 U.S. hit, “Let Me Be There,” in 1973, followed by five number 1 singles and 15 top-10 hits, including “I Honestly Love You” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” Her 1981 smash “Physical” spent 10 weeks at number 1 and was the biggest hit tune of the decade. Out of 12 Grammy nominations, she had four wins.
She was probably most beloved for her star turn opposite John Travolta in the 1978 musical Grease. Their epochal duet “You’re the One That I Want” helped the film, made for $6 million, earn more than $350 million worldwide. Her character’s celebrated transformation from good-girl Sandy to spandex-clad bad-girl Sandy changed her image, and foreshadowed the grit Newton-John would show throughout her life, both in her career and in her personal life.