From the moment she appeared in the opening scene of Grease, running down the beach and kissing John Travolta while silhouetted against the setting sun, Olivia Newton-John will always be best remembered as Sandy Olsson.
Released in June 1978, the film was an instant hit and quickly became the highest-grossing motion picture musical of its time. Newton-John’s performance of “Hopelessly Devoted To You” was nominated for an Academy Award, while the image of her in blond curls breathes: “Tell me about it, stud,” before stubbing out her cigarette in red heels and stepping into “You Are.” the one I want” has etched itself into the common imagination. You couldn’t ask for a more defining vision of adolescent sexual awakening and rebellion.
But Newton-John, who died of breast cancer at the age of 73, had much more to offer than her most iconic role. Her father, Bryn Newton-John, was born in Cambridge on September 26, 1948 and was an MI5 officer who worked on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park and took Nazi Deputy Leader Rudolf Hess into custody during World War II. Her mother, Irene, was the daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Born, who fled the Nazi regime to Britain.
In 1954, when Newton-John was six years old, her family immigrated to Melbourne, Australia. Developing a love of performing as a young teenager, she appeared in the 1965 TV talent show Sing, Sing, Sing with versions of Burt Bacharach’s Anyone Who Had A Heart and Stephen Sondheim’s Everything’s Coming Up Roses. She won the competition and was awarded a trip to the UK.
In London, Newton-John recorded her debut single “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine,” which was released in 1966 with little fanfare. Five years later, she had her first UK Top 10 hit with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “If Not For You,” the title track from her debut album. On this record, Newton-John performed a wide range of the country and folk songs she loved, including Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee”, The Bands “In a Station” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind”. .
Having made her name as a folk singer, Newton-John proved she was equally at home with pop when she was chosen to represent the UK in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest.
Her song ‘Long Live Love’ was chosen for her by the British public and deemed a success, but she was ultimately surpassed at the Brighton competition by ABBA’s unstoppable ‘Waterloo’. Later that year, Newton-John released “I Honestly Love You,” which became her first number one hit in the United States and, at least until Grease, her signature song.
When Grease emerged in 1978, it catapulted Newton-John to superstardom while encouraging her to transform her image. Inspired by Sandy’s metamorphosis from a straight-laced schoolgirl to a spandex-clad siren, Newton-John’s next album Totally Hot contained a rock ‘n’ roll sound and she appeared on the cover in black leather.
Their 1981 follow-up, “Physical,” became an increasing success, and its title track topped the charts worldwide. Released just months after MTV launched, Newton-John pioneered the burgeoning field of music television by recording a video for every song on the record and winning a Grammy for her groundbreaking video album.
Shortly after the release of the greatest hits compilation Back to Basics in 1992, Newton-John was first diagnosed with breast cancer. She received the news the same weekend her father died, and was forced to cancel any promotion for the album, as well as an accompanying tour. She recovered but the cancer returned in 2013 and then again in 2017.
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Over the many years of dealing with the painful effects of her cancer and the associated surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Newton-John became an avid advocate of medicinal cannabis. She was introduced to it by her husband, John Easterling, who grows the plant on their California ranch. Newton-John’s daughter Chloe Lattanzi also owns a cannabis farm in Oregon.
In 2007, Easterling introduced Newton-John to the powerful psychedelic brew ayahuasca. They married the following year in Cusco, Peru. “It changed my life,” Newton-John told The Guardian in 2020. “If I hadn’t had that experience, I might not be married to John now. I had the most incredible visions when I was influenced by it. It was wonderful.”
Through her psychedelic experiences, Newton-John found that she was able to connect with important figures from her past. She wrote in her 2019 autobiography Don’t Stop Believin’ that she would call on the late singers Karen Carpenter and John Denver as her “spirit guides.” Both had been friends with her before her death, and she found they would calm her down before concerts.
In 2019, Newton-John told CBS News that she tried not to let her diagnosis or thoughts of death overwhelm her. “You have to think about it. I mean, it’s part of life,” she said. “But I try not to think about it too much. I’m trying to mediate and be peaceful about it, and I know everyone I love is there, so there’s something to look forward to.”
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/from-her-mi5-father-to-competing-against-abba-in-eurovision-there-was-more-to-olivia-newton-john-than-grease-41899315.html From her MI5 dad to competing against Abba in the Eurovision Song Contest, there was more to Olivia Newton-John than Grease