On Aug. 8 of last year, actress and singer Olivia Newton-John died after battling with breast cancer. She was 73.
Speaking to People, Newton-John’s widower, John Easterling, spoke of the past year without his wife. “Things aren’t easy,” Easterling said, “but you always have to just dig. Olivia was able to never lose sight of the good things. Love is everywhere.”
Easterling revealed that he traveled to Peru, which he called his and Newton-John’s “special place,” this past June to spread her ashes. It was in the same spot where the two were married — and it would have been their 15th anniversary, per People.
“It lightened my heart and created a very strong focus forward,” Easterling said. “I had 15 years with this extraordinary human being. That experience itself is worth a lifetime.”
What did Olivia Newton-John die of?
Newton-John died of breast cancer at the age of 73. The actress’s husband, John Easterling, announced her death on Facebook: “Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends.”
John Travolta, who played Danny opposite of Newton-John’s Sandy in “Grease,” posted a touching tribute to Newton-John on Instagram at the time: “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. ... Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!”
What was Olivia Newton-John best known for?
While Newton-John was best known for playing Sandy in “Grease,” it’s certainly not her only well-known cultural moment. Here are Newton-John’s most iconic pop culture moments.
1. ‘Grease’ (1978)
Newton-John’s starring role as Sandy in “Grease” is arguably what catapulted her to fame. At 29 years old, Newton-John played a wide-eyed Australian transplant in the hit musical. Even though the film came out over 40 years ago, audiences today still recognize iconic “Grease” musical numbers, such as “Summer Nights” and “You’re the One that I Want.”
2. ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ (1978)
Perhaps one of the most well-known songs from “Grease,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You” still resonates with music lovers. “Grease” fans might be surprised to know that the classic song wasn’t part of the original musical production — it was written specifically for the movie by Newton-John’s music collaborator, John Farrar.
The song was such a hit that it rose to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also received an Oscar nomination for best original song, according to Rolling Stone.
3. ‘Xanadu’ (1980)
While some may say that Newton-John’s film career peaked with “Grease,” Newton-John starred in another movie musical: “Xanadu.” In it, Newton-John stars as Kira, one of the nine muses of Olympus, came to earth to inspire Sonny Malone (Michael Beck) to create a nightclub called Xanadu.
The film wasn’t a hit when it came out in 1980, but it’s developed a niche cult following over the years. In 2020, BBC argued that it might be time to rethink “Xanadu”: “Perhaps now, as the film turns 40, we ought to reappraise it. ... Maybe Xanadu is a misunderstood masterpiece?”
4. ‘Physical’ (1981)
Perhaps one of Newton-John’s most well-known songs, “Physical” is in stark contrast to Sandy’s good-girl image in “Grease.” The “Physical” music video depicts Newton-John interacting with a group of muscular men working out while Newton-John sings the innuendo-filled lyrics. According to The New York Times, “Physical” was the longest-running No. 1 song of the ’80s.
5. ‘Glee’ guest-starring role (2010)
Newton-John’s film and TV appearances were scarce in the 2000s, but she did a make a rare guest appearance on the hit show “Glee.” In Season 1, Episode 17, a video of Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) dancing along to “Physical” gets leaked and subsequently ridiculed.
The video catches the attention of Newton-John, playing herself, who enlists Sue’s help to recreate her iconic “Physical” music video. This guest appearance was a delight to fans, who loved seeing Newton-John recreating “Physical” after over 30 years.