WASHINGTON — Olivia Newton-John, the British-Australian actress and singer who became everyone's sweetheart with her portrayal of Sandy in "Grease," died Monday morning, according to an announcement posted on her official social media accounts. She was 73.
"Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer," the announcement from her husband, John Easterling said. She passed away at her ranch in southern California.
Her family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the Olivia Newton-John foundation.
Newton-John was born in 1948 in Cambridge, England and moved to Melbourne, Australia when she was five, according to her website.
Her rise to fame started with winning a talent competition on a TV show. By 15, she was part of an all-girl group called Sol 4 and was regularly appearing on Australian TV. She later made her way back to England and joined Pat Carroll to become one-half of the duo "Pat & Olivia."
Newton-John's first big hit came in 1973 with the country-influenced "Let Me Be There." It ended up in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, Country and Contemporary charts. The album of the same name led to Newton-John winning a Grammy as Best Country Vocalist.
She would follow that success with "I Honestly Love You" -- the first of her five No. 1 hits on the Billboard chart. It won her Grammys for Record Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
In 1981, during the infancy of MTV, Newton-John released "Physical." That song also topped the charts and was accompanied by an iconic video that combined comedy and sexuality as overweight men in a gym instantly transformed into their muscular alter egos.
In the middle of all this came the role that launched her to super-stardom. She played Sandy Olsson, the Australian teen who was reunited at Rydell High School with her summer fling Danny Zuko (John Travolta) in 1978's "Grease." Her solo hit from that movie, "Hopelessly Devoted To You" would earn her another Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
"My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better," Travolta wrote in memory of Newton-John. "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!"
The success of "Grease" would be Newton-John’s pinnacle on the big screen. It was followed up with marginal films like "Xanadu" and a reunion with Travolta in "Two Of A Kind." From there, it was mostly smaller roles for her.
Away from the stage and screen, Newton-John became a national treasure in Australia as a humanitarian, philanthropist and environmentalist. She hosted the syndicated TV show "Wild Life" and was the first Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program. She was also a spokesperson for the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition and worked with the Rainforest Alliance. Newton-John also created Australia's National Tree Day in 1996, helping to plant 20 million trees.
Queen Elizabeth bestowed Newton-John with the Order Of The British Empire in 1979. She also received the Officer of the Order of Australia, that nation's highest honor.
Newton-John battled cancer more than once and did so publicly. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and beat it. Doctors found cancer in her shoulder after a 2013 car accident. Then in 2017, she learned her breast cancer returned and had spread to her back, resulting in a tumor at the base of her spine.
The cancer reached stage 4, and Newton-John revealed to "60 Minutes Australia" that she didn't want to know how much time she had.
"If somebody tells you, you have six months to live, very possibly you will because you believe that. So for me, psychologically, it's better not to have any ideas of what they expect, or what the last person that has what you have lived, so I don't tune in," she said.
Olivia Newton-John is survived by her husband, “Amazon John” Easterling. Together they were dedicated to causes to protect the Amazon rainforest. She also has a daughter, Chloe, from her first marriage to Matt Lattanzi.