After surviving cancer in 1992 and again in 2013, it returned in 2017 and on August 9, 2022, the Grammy-award winning singer lost her battle with spinal cancer.
In a statement released by her husband John Easterling, she was described as a symbol of “triumph and hope”.
“Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer,” the statement read.
She died peacefully on her California ranch, surrounded by family and friends, the statement said.
With a career spanning more than five decades, 100 million albums sold, four Grammy Awards, ten #1 hits and over 15 top 10 singles, Newton-John has well and truly earned her place as one of the world’s most successful stars.
Born in Cambridge, England in 1948, Newton-John was the youngest of three children born to her father, Professor Brian Newton-John and mother, Irene, daughter of Nobel Prize winning physicist, Max Born.
Newton John spent just five years in the UK, before moving to Australia in 1953.
It was winning a television talent contest, called Sing Sing Sing, hosted by Australian rock ‘n’ roll icon Johnny O’Keefe in the 1960’s, that saw the singer’s career really take off. By the age of just 15, Newton-John had formed an all-girl group called Sol 4 and the teenager began appearing on local music programs in Australia and the UK.
She recorded her first single, Till You Say You’ll Be Mine, in 1966 and not long after she released her debut album, Let Me Be There. The record earned her a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocalist and a Country Music Awards for Most Promising Female Vocalist.
And that was just the beginning. 1974 was a big year for Newton-John. She came fourth in the Eurovision Song Contest, losing out to global pop supergroup, ABBA. Later that year she released a new album, featuring her single; I Honestly Love You. It became a worldwide hit and her first number one single in the United States and Canada.
Newton-John’s portrayal of sweet-as-pie Sandy Olsson in the movie Grease, alongside Hollywood’s John Travolta, catapulted her into stardom. The movie’s soundtrack spent 12 weeks at #1 and yielded three top five singles for her including; You’re The One That I Want (with John Travolta), Hopelessly Devoted To You, and Summer Nights.
Synonymous with the film is the spandex pants and off-the-shoulder top Newton John wears in the movie’s final scenes, still inspiring fashionistas four generations later. It was also a role that very nearly didn’t happen.
Already 29 years of age at the time, the actress thought she may have been “too old” to play the part of a high school student.
“I was very nervous about pulling it off. When I look at it now I think I was nuts. But when you’re really young you’re just more fussy about that stuff. When you’re older you’re just grateful,” she told The Washington Post in 2019.
Since then Newton-John went on to star in many other films and TV shows such as Xanadu, A Few Best Men, and more recently in 2010, appeared as herself in two episodes of the hit series Glee.
It was in 1981 she released her hit song Physical. The song caused quite the controversy at the time of its release as a result of its sexually suggestive content, and despite being the #1 best-selling single of the ’80s, it was banned by some radio in America over the lyrics.
“For me it’s about the music. If it’s a great song then it’s going to sell itself anyway,” Newton-John told Fox News in 2016.
“But it’s a very competitive world. I’m so grateful I started when I did because these girls I think are probably pushed to get wilder and wilder to get noticed.”
In 1984, the songstress married her boyfriend of four years Matt Lattanzi, who she met on the set of Xanadu. The pair divorced after 10 years of marriage in 1995. They share one child together, daughter Chloe Lattanzi, 36.
Not long after her divorce, the mum of one moved on with cameraman Patrick McDermott. After nine years together, he mysteriously disappeared from a fishing trip in 2005. While an investigation concluded McDermott most likely drowned, in 2016 he was reported to have been found living in Mexico.
The singer-songwriter went on to marry American businessman John Easterling in 2008. The pair had been friends for almost two decades before they fell in love.
“I’m very lucky I have a wonderful, beautiful husband who is just so loving and fantastic. I always tell my friends you’re never too old to find love,” Newton-John told People magazine in 2016.
The songmaker was sadly diagnosed with cancer three times throughout her life.
The first time was breast cancer in 1992, the same weekend her father had passed away from cancer himself. In 2013, Newton-John revealed the disease was back, this time in her shoulder, and in 2017 it returned in the base of her spine.
“A lot of people see it as a fight, and that’s … however you choose to see it, that’s your prerogative. I see it as part of my mission,” she told the BBC in 2018.
Newton-John’s passion for health and wellness saw her open the world renowned and award-winning Gaia Retreat and Spa in Byron Bay in 2005. She opened the retreat as an ideal place to renew, refresh and restore and spent a lot of her time there.
Since her diagnosis over 20 years ago, Newton-John has been a strong breast cancer advocate and in 2008 opened the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne. The Centre provides world-leading treatment and care and gives patients access to clinical trials and breakthrough therapies.
This wasn’t the only cause close to her heart. The entrepreneur was named the first Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Environment Programme and in 1991, and served as the national spokesperson for the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition.
There aren’t many accolades Newton-John hasn’t received. On top of selling an estimated 100 million records worldwide, she’s taken home a swag of music awards including; 10 American Music Awards, 9 Billboard Music Awards and four Grammy Awards.
She was also bestowed an Order Of The British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 1979, and an Order of Australia in 2006 and again in 2019. In 2018 she also received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from La Trobe University in Melbourne, in recognition of her significant and ongoing support of cancer research and holistic health.
It was in December 2019 that Her Majesty the Queen named Newton-John a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to music, cancer research and charity.
Up until her passing, Newton-John was living on a ranch just outside of Santa Barbara with her husband, Easterling. Newton-John once said; “I simply have a marvellous life, a very lucky life.”
I think we’re the lucky ones that she shared it with us.