Olivia Newton-John, star of Grease and Xanadu, dies at 73

Singer and actress Olivia Newton-John died on Monday at the age of 72 after a long battle with breast cancer that had spread to other parts of her body.

Owner of a long career with resounding successes both in music and in cinema, Newton-John lived the peak of popularity between the late 70s, when he starred in “Grease, alongside John Travolta, and the beginning of the 80s – “Physical “, released in late 1981, spent ten weeks at the top of the Billboard charts and was considered by the magazine to be the biggest hit of 1982.

Born in London in September 1948, and granddaughter of a Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Olivia was still a child in Australia, where, early on, she began to show talent for the arts. At the age of 17, she won a television contest whose prize was the recording of a single in England. That little record came out, although it didn’t have any success.

She would need to wait a little longer, until 1971, for her career to finally gain traction. As a country music singer, she scored hits in Australia, England and the United States, where her 1975 album “Have You Never Been Mellow” reached number one.

Her career took a dramatic turn when she was chosen for the role of Sandy Olsson in the film version of the musical “Grease”. One of those timeless, unpredictable hits, the film took in more than $366 million at the box office (for a cost of $6 million).
Olivia Newton-John
Its soundtrack was also a global success of enormous proportions – in 1978 it was the second best-selling album in the United States, behind only another emblematic track: that of “Saturday Night Fever”.

Newton-John then decides to change his “girlfriend” image to that of a sexy, grown-up woman. The title of his first post-“Grease” album already gives the change: “Totally Hot”, from which came an immortal pop hit: The ballad “A Little More Love”.

Olivia Newton-John

She enters the 80s with the stakes high and starring in yet another musical. “Xanadu”, with the theme song composed by Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, which is also on other songs on the score, is not successful in theaters and also fails with critics – nowadays it has become a cult thanks to its charm. kitsch and its songs, most of them undeniably catchy.

Olivia has yet to endure the ultimate humiliation of being nominated for Worst Actress at the inaugural Golden Raspberry Awards – she “lost” to Brooke Shields’ performance in “The Blue Lagoon.”

To compensate, the album with the songs from the film turned out to be a great success reaching the top spots in several parts of the world, thanks to singles like “Magic”, another number 1 in the US.

Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton John would record in 1981 her biggest hit: “Physical”, with its double meaning lyrics and a humorous clip that charted on the recently released MTV becomes one of the ubiquitous songs of the following year. To this day, the track continues to inspire new artists and producers (see the homonymous song by Dua Lipa).

This was her last big moment as a hitmaker. In 1983, the artist reunites with John Travolta in “Embalos A Dois”, a musical of limited success and ditto soundtrack, and two years later, she releases the album “Soul Kiss”, which also sells much less than its multi-platinum predecessor.

Olivia Newton-John

From then on, she never sold so many albums, nor participated in box office hits, which was not a problem. Her star status was more than guaranteed and she was able to continue performing around the world and also taking advantage of the perennial phenomenon “Grease”, whose songs are already part of the collective unconscious of several generations.

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