The Australian icon’s death was announced through her official social media accounts, which noted on August 8th that she “passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends.” The statement continued, “Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer. Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer. ”
Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. In 2017, she announced that the disease had spread to her lower back.
Born in 1948 in the UK and then raised in Australia, Newton-John began her musical career at the age of 15 in the girl group Sol Four. They won a talent contest on Sing, Sing, Sing, winning a ticket to London in the process. She toured army bases and clubs in Europe, signed a record contract just a few years later in 1966, and arrived as a star in 1973 with Let Me Be There, earning a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and her first top ten single with the album’s title track.
Newton-John topped that feat in 1974 with “I Honestly Love You,” which was not only her first No. 1 single, but which went on to win her second and third Grammy awards, for Best Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year. She climbed to the top of the charts again in 1975 with “Have You Never Been Mellow,” and reigned as one of the biggest musical stars on the planet when she was cast in Grease (1978).
Newton-John played Sandy opposite John Travolta’s Danny, lighting up the screen with one of the steamiest romances ever committed to film. It became the highest-grossing musical in history for a time and remains one of the most beloved musicals of the decade. In recent years the character of Sandy has been criticized for the way she changes her personality to please a boy, but few have found fault with Newton-John’s performance.