Dame Olivia Newton-John, a British-Australian singer, songwriter, actress, entrepreneur, and activist, has died at 73.
Olivia Newton-John was born on Sept. 26, 1948, in Cambridge, England, the youngest of three children of Brinley and Irene (Born) Newton-John. Her mother was the daughter of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Born. Her Welsh-born father had been an MI5 intelligence officer during World War II and afterward served as headmaster at Cambridgeshire High School for Boys.
When Ms. Newton-John was 6, her family immigrated to Melbourne, Australia, where her father worked as a college professor and administrator. At 14, she formed her first group, Sol Four, with three girls from school. Her beauty and confidence soon earned her solo performances on local radio and TV shows called “Lovely Livvy.” On “The Go!! Show,” she met the singer Pat Carroll, with whom she would form a duet, and her eventual producer, Mr. Farrar, who later married Ms. Carroll.
Olivia hit it big in 1971 with songs like “If Not for You” and in 1973, “Let Me Be There.” She followed that up with a monster hit, “Have You Never Been Mellow.” However, her huge break came in 1978 when she starred opposite John Travolta in “Grease.” Her role as Sandy was iconic, as were several songs from the movie, “You’re the One that I Want,” “Summer Nights,” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” The film propelled Olivia to new heights, and she followed it up with movies like “Xanadu.”
“I don’t think anyone could have imagined a movie would go on almost 40 years and would still be popular and people would still be talking to me about it all the time and loving it,” Newton-John told CNN in 2017 about her role in Grease. “It’s just one of those movies. I’m fortunate to have been a part of it. It’s given so many people pleasure.”
Olivia Newton-John amassed No. 1 hits, chart-topping albums, and four records that sold more than two million copies each. But, more than anything else, she was likable, even beloved.
Applying the evolution of her “Grease” character to her singing career, Ms. Newton-John titled her next album “Totally Hot.” She presented herself on the cover in shoulder-to-toe leather. The album, released at the end of 1978, went platinum, yielding the rock-oriented “A Little More Love” with the line, “Where did my innocence go?”
John Travolta posted about Olivia’s passing, saying, “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road, and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!