Many remember Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsson, the Australian transfer student in the 1978 musical romcom, “Grease.”
In the case of “Grease,” the big screen seems to have mimicked reality, as Olivia was actually born in the U.K on September 26, 1948, but was mostly raised in Australia after her father took up a job as dean in a college in Melbourne.
Her father, Brinley Newton-John, used to be an MI5 officer on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park and was the officer who took Rudolph Hess into custody during World War II. Her maternal grandfather, meanwhile, is the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Max Born.
John Travolta And Olivia Newton John - You're The One That I Want
Olivia Newton-John Then
She formed a short-lived, all-girl group called “Sol Four” with three of her classmates at the age of 14. It wasn’t long before she started appearing regularly on Australian television shows, with her first onscreen appearance being in the musical film, “Funny Things Happen Down Under” at the age of 17.
A string of albums kept her busy during the ‘70s, each album containing singles that would reach the top ten charts. She would also represent the U.K. in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Long Live Love”, placing fourth behind ABBA’s winning entry, “Waterloo”. Her 1975 album, “Clearly Love” wasn’t as well-received as her previous outings and her pop career cooled down. It wouldn’t be until 1978 before she would once again enter the charts- the same year that the movie “Grease” became the blockbuster success known all over the world. The soundtrack album spent 12 weeks at the Number One spot.
The ‘80s saw Newton-John change her image from the wholesome, girl-next-door to something more risque - much like the transformation in her character in “Grease.” The makeover was already noticeable in her 1978 album “Totally Hot”, wherein the country music influence was toned down and where she posed for the album cover fully clad in leather. Her next project, the fantasy musical film “Xanadu”, didn’t fare well at the box office as “Grease,” but the soundtrack album (a split LP with the group ELO) became an instant classic. It went double platinum and scored five top 20 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Her next solo album (minus the live album, “Love Performance”) would mimic this success. “Physical” saw Newton-John take her new “rebellious” image to the next level, combining a rock-oriented sound with more risque material.
The title track’s subject matter of sex, cleverly disguised in a catchy pop tune, proved too much for some, and the song was banned on two radio stations in Utah. The record company and the artist countered the highly suggestive lyrics with an exercise video. “Physical” became a massive hit, helping usher in a new fitness fad, aerobics, that was soon to sweep the nation. The song had such a huge cultural impact that it saw the lowly headband and tacky leg warmers combo elevated into a must-have fashion accessory outside the gym.
Music historians went as far as to say that she pioneered the nascent music video industry. Each song on the album had an accompanying music video which helped her win her fourth Grammy Award. Her ABC prime-time special, “Let’s Get Physical” became a top 10 Nielsen hit.
She would go on to make album after album, and she would do her best to stay relevant in the ever-changing pop music scene. She maintained a loyal fanbase since the very beginning and gained new ones as well, as young singers would take inspiration from her work.
Her career achievements are an eye-popping and never-ending list of successes. It would seem that she was indeed intended for greatness from the get-go. To list her triumphs in chronological order is no easy feat - there are just too many!
Olivia Newton-John Now
Her first marriage with her long-time boyfriend, actor, and singer Matt Lattanzi, has given the talented singer her only daughter, Chloe Rose Lattanzi. Matt and Olivia met on the set of the movie Xanadu and married in December 1984. The couple divorced in 1995.
Newton-John's career took a backseat when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, not long after the death of her father, to get healthy.
News reports state that her cancer has relapsed at least twice, but she has remained hopeful all throughout and was dedicated to getting well. Despite the medical interventions she had to go through such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, Newton-John has been a vocal advocate of medical cannabis. It was her new husband, John Easterling that introduced her to it and her daughter Chloe actually owns a marijuana farm.
She is such a proud advocate for medical cannabis that she even set up the Olivia Newton-John Foundation to research on other herbal therapies that could help alleviate Cancer and its symptoms.