Singer Olivia Newton-John, who soared to the top of the world’s pop music charts in the 1970s and 1980s with tunes such as “I Honestly Love You” and “Physical” and starred in the hit movie musical “Grease,” died on Monday at age 73 at her home in southern California.
The death of the British-born, Australian-raised performer was announced on her Instagram account, saying she “passed away peacefully” at her ranch home “surrounded by family and friends.”
Newton-John, a four-time Grammy winner, had disclosed several years ago that breast cancer had metastasized and spread to her back, forcing her to cancel performances. Twenty-five years earlier Newton-John had undergone a partial mastectomy and gone on to establish a cancer treatment-research facility in Australia.
The entertainer began performing as a child and became a global superstar after moving to the United States. She was blond, blue-eyed and brimming with wholesomeness when she had her first hit in 1971 with “If Not for You” – a Bob Dylan song that also had been recorded by George Harrison.
It would be followed in the next few years by “Let Me Be There,” which won her a Grammy for best female country vocal performance, “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” and two No. 1 songs, “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “I Honestly Love You.” The latter song won Grammys for best female pop performance and record of the year.
Newton-John also beat out country stars Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton to win the Country Music Association’s female singer of the year award in 1974. The unlikely success of an Australian in American country music bothered many Nashville purists.
Critics also did not always care for Newton-John’s work, often finding her frothy and overly commercial. The New York Times once described her voice as “nearly colourless.”