Singer Olivia Newton-John, who rose to worldwide fame as high school sweetheart Sandy in the hit film “Grease,” passed away Monday after a 30-year battle with cancer. She was 73.
Newton-John “passed away peacefully this morning at her Southern California ranch surrounded by family and friends,” her husband John Easterling said in a statement on her official social media accounts.
The entertainer, whose career spanned more than five decades, devoted much of her time and celebrity to charitable causes after she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.
The British-born and Australian-raised star devoted a number of albums and concerts to raising funds for research and early detection of the disease, including the construction of a health center named after her in her adopted home of Melbourne.
“I don’t like to say ‘fought,'” a defiant Newton-John told Australia’s Channel Seven TV in September 2018 after revealing she had been diagnosed with cancer for the third time.
“I like to say ‘overcome’ because ‘fought’ causes this anger and inflammation that you don’t want.”
Newton-John is best known for starring in the 1978 musical “Grease,” alongside John Travolta, as the girl next door Sandy, who trades her ankle-length skirt and prim and decent hair for tight black pants and a perm.
The high school sweetheart turned naughty girl has resonated with audiences around the world and continues to win hearts decades after the film was released.
“It was fun making it, but you never know with movies whether the audience will agree or not, even if you love them,” she said in a 2018 Forbes interview.
“It’s incredible that it’s still going on, but it’s not even just that, it shows no signs of stopping. You say ‘Sandy and Danny’ and people immediately know what you’re talking about.”
Grease remained the highest-grossing musical for three decades, with Newton-John and Travolta having a close relationship long after the film was made.
“She was my favorite thing about doing Grease,” Travolta said in an interview marking the film’s 40th anniversary in 2018.
There was no one else “in the universe” who could play Sandy, he said of Newton-John, who turned 29 during the making of Grease and later revealed she had to be convinced by Travolta to take on the role after doubting herself. that she was too old to play a teenager.
“If you were a young man in the 70s…if you remember that album cover with Olivia in that blue shirt, with those big blue eyes staring at you,” Travolta recalled.
“Every boy, every man’s dream was, ‘Oh I so wish that girl was my girlfriend’.”
Her career would span the next few decades from singer and actor to author and philanthropist, with her passion for cancer research coming to the fore and advocating for natural therapies including medicinal cannabis in the treatment of cancer.
She performed well into her late 60s, until her last diagnosis, which included a two-year residency in Vegas, a 2015 tour with Australian music legend John Farnham, and even recording a Club Dance song with her at age 67. daughter Chloe Lattanzi.
“I did everything, and the icing on the cake too,” she said, looking back on her career.
“So I’m grateful for everything that’s happening right now.”