Olivia Newton-John dies; Pop singer and ‘Grease’ star was 73
Ms Newton-John was treated for breast cancer in 1992 and she announced 25 years later in 2017 that it had come back and metastasized. (She later revealed that she’s been battling the disease privately since 2013.)
Since her initial diagnosis at 44, Ms Newton-John had become an advocate for cancer research and awareness, as well as environmental causes. She sang for presidents and a pope, the sick and disabled, and promoted music as a form of spiritual therapy, raising millions of dollars to fund the Olivia Newton Cancer Research and Wellness Center. John at Austin Hospital in Melbourne. His later albums featured inspirational music about love, friendship and overcoming trauma.
“Music has always helped me in my healing, and now I hope it inspires healing in others,” she told a reporter in 2007.
John Travolta, Dionne Warwick and More Remember Olivia Newton-John
Ms Newton-John had burst into the mid-1960s as a talented teenager on Melbourne TV shows and had a smash hit in England with her 1971 solo cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘If Not for You’.
She scored five No. 1 hit singles over the next decade – “I love you, honestly,” “Have you ever been sweet,” “you are the one i want,” “Magic” and “Physical” – won four Grammy Awards, hosted television specials that drew tens of millions of viewers and remained Australia’s most successful solo music star.
But its deftly produced mix of sweet-sweet styles has irked purists of all stripes and left some reviewers looking pejorative. One of them compared his tenuous and indefinable voice to a loaf of bread (“If white bread could sing…”). A Playboy writer observed that his music made the listener “feel like they were wrapped in cotton candy and sunbathing”.
When the Country Music Association named Ms. Newton-John Singer of the Year in 1974, Nashville stars including Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton formed a short-lived rival organization intended to keep pop singers out of their musical turf. Some critics have spread the possibly apocryphal story that Ms Newton-John, on a visit to the country music capital, was delighted to meet Hank Williams, the country legend who had been in his grave for 20 year.
Ms Newton-John was widely regarded as one of the most candid performers in the industry and avoided responding to in-kind criticism. “I was just a performer that the audience found enjoyable,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “And after all, the public’s opinion is the only one that matters, isn’t it?
His revenge was at the cash register, with hit songs including the million sales “Clearly Love” (1975). In her sold-out concert hall appearances, she eased expectations with a wit of self-mockery, once telling an audience in Las Vegas, “Every 10 or so years, a really fantastic song comes along. And until it does, I’d like to sing one of my own.
And came “Fat(1978), which showcased both her charm and her sex appeal. The film, based on the long-running Broadway musical about a 1950s high school, starred Ms. Newton-John as exchange student and cheerleader, Sandy, who falls in love with John Travolta in as long as (not so) bad boy. gang leader Danny.
In the finale he wears a varsity sweater and she turned into temptress wearing tight black pants, a black biker jacket and red stilettos. She became an instant pin-up for a generation of boys. “These pants have changed my life,” she joked.
Vincent Canby, New York Times film critic called Mrs Newton-John’s performance “very funny and utterly charming”. Audiences have particularly reacted to his chemistry with Travolta in duets such as “Summer nights” and “You are the one I want.” The soundtrack sold millions of copies and sent audiences back into the theater, creating the perfect commercial storm.
She wasted her fame in “Xanadou” (1980), a musical roller-disco fantasy which also included Gene Kelly and the Electric Light Orchestra. It gave him the top of the charts “Magic” but was otherwise a critical and box office fiasco, which she made worse with the bombshell”two of a kind(1983), with Travolta.
All along, she searched for an image to support her musical career. It was the blue-eyed girl next door speaking her words in a smoky whisper. Then she was the shoulder-shaking disco queen, with her blonde hair styled in freaky wigs. There was an ill-fated attempt to vixenize her with a bare back and a riding crop – courtesy of cheeky photographer Helmut Newton – on the cover of the 1985 album ‘Soul Kiss’.
The image was totally out of place for Ms Newton-John, who said she was much more conservative, even ‘boring’, in her personal life. She feared that “Physical”, an aggressively suggestive song originally intended for British singer Rod Stewart, risked a backlash from his fans. She chose before the release of the record to first make a light video, set in a gym full of out of shape men rather than in a boudoir.
It ranked No. 1 for 10 weeks, becoming the biggest hit of his American career and a staple of many aerobics classes in the age of headbands and leggings.
In a few years, her musical and cinematographic trajectory stabilized, but she remained a staple of glossy magazines, which recounts his personal woes. She was a cancer survivor; the death of family members and close friends due to illness; and her daughter’s public battle with depression, anorexia and drug addiction.
She also endured bankruptcy of his Australian-themed boutique chain, Koala Blue. And she overcame at least one very shy relationship, with a debt-ridden Hollywood cameraman who may have faked his own death.
Through her angst, she maintained a music career that increasingly became New Age catharsis rather than pop. These albums, which all featured her as a melodist, included “Gaia: One Woman’s Journey“(1994),”stronger than before(2006) andlive on(2016).
From singing star to cancer survivor
Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England on September 26, 1948. Her mother, the former Irene Born, was the daughter of Nobel Prize-winning German-Jewish physicist Max Born, who fled to England during the rise of Hitler. .
His father, Brinley Newton-John, was a professor of German at the University of Cambridge who moved the family to Australia in the early 1950s when he became dean of a college in Melbourne. It was a musical house, with his father playing the piano and his mother playing the cello. Olivia, the youngest of three siblings, sang.
After her parents divorced, she found deep solace in music. She sang at her brother-in-law’s cafe on weekends, then at local dances and parties, and finally on television. At 17, she had left high school to pursue show business in England.
In 1969, musical impresario Don Kirshner, who had made the Monkees as an American answer to the Beatles, put together a band called tomorrow which he described as “an action-adventure band – James Bond with music”, with Ms. Newton-John among its members. An eponymous science fiction film designed to launch the group turned out to be a resounding failure.
Ms Newton-John represented England at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 and lost to Sweden’s ABBA – a minor stumble in her rise up the charts.
She had a long relationship with Shadows guitarist Bruce Welch and his former manager Lee Kramer before marrying Matt Lattanzi, a “Xanadu” backup dancer, in 1984. The marriage fell apart in the early to mid-1990s. from the strain of his battle with cancer.
In 2005, her on-and-off boyfriend of nine years, cameraman Patrick McDermott, disappeared during a nighttime fishing expedition off San Pedro, California. A Coast Guard investigation concluded that he likely drowned. But McDermott’s troubled financial history fueled speculation that he had staged his death and was living incognito in Mexico. (Ms Newton-John was in Australia at the time of the incident and was reserved in her public statements, once calling the situation “heartbreaking”.)
In 2008, Ms Newton-John married John “Amazon John” Easterling, an importer of South American herbs. As well as her husband, survivors include a daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, with whom Ms Newton-John recorded a dance-beat version of “Magic” in 2015 ; a sister; and a brother.
“It’s funny, but now I’m better known for being a breast cancer survivor than an artist,” Ms Newton-John said long after her initial recovery from the disease. “It makes me proud to be someone who can inspire and help people. Maybe it was meant to be my job all along.