A Tribute to Olivia Newton-John

The passing of a beloved icon


Abbiegail Luker

Olivia Newton-John passed away on Aug. 8 after a long illness.

Abbiegail Luker, Reporter

While most know her for her iconic role as Sandy Olsson from “Grease” and her hit song “Physical,” Olivia Newton-John has done much more over the span of her career. Newton-John has released a whopping total of 26 studio albums from 1971-2016, her first being “If Not For You” and her last being “Friends For Christmas” (not including soundtracks and live albums).

Olivia Newton-John was born on Sept. 26, 1948 in Cambridge, England and grew up in Melbourne, Australia. Newton-John passed away in her sleep on Aug. 8. Husband John Easterling said that “Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer. Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer.” Travolta posted on Instagram saying, “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. 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!”

Newton-John started singing when she was about 14, winning a trip to London on the show “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and forming the girl group Sol 4. After going on her prized trip, Newton-John teamed up with close friend Pat Carroll and toured through Europe as “Pat & Olivia.” She released her first single “Til’ You Say You’ll Be Mine” in 1966 and released a cover of “If Not For You” in 1971. Newton-John was then cast as Sandy in “Grease” in 1978, and entered super stardom with her performance alongside John Travolta as Danny.

Newton-John struggled with breast cancer over the years, first being diagnosed in 1992. She then released the album “Gaia: One Woman’s Journey” about her struggles with cancer in 1994. Newton-John became an important breast cancer figure by advocating for early detection and founding the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Center in Melbourne, Australia with Austin Health in 2012.

Newton-John also became quite involved in the fight against rainforest deforestation after marrying John Easterling in 2008. Together they served on the Board of the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research and joined Prince Charles’ mission, The Prince’s Rainforest Project. 

One of my favorite movies is “Grease,” so naturally, Olivia Newton-John had become an idol of mine. I remember being absolutely fascinated by the music, the dancing, and the relationship between Sandy and Danny. It was probably the first musical I watched that wasn’t Disney, and it was fascinating. It was like nothing else I had ever seen, and has stuck with me all these years. It’s a timeless movie, enjoyable by all generations and unique.

Fellow “Grease” fan and drama teacher Melissa Gehrke said that she was incredibly sad when hearing of Newton-John’s passing. “It’s the end of an era,” she said. Gehrke said that she remembers trying to learn the dances to Grease as a 7 or 8-year-old, and how much she loved Sandy. “Grease was so monumental for musical theater, it was like the first of its kind. Sandy walked so Gabriella could run.”

To say that she’s a star is a grave understatement. Newton-John is one of the most influential women in her time and Australian history. She’s won 11 awards, and was awarded a Damehood (the female equivalent of Knighthood) by Queen Elizabeth ll in 2020. She’s a cultural icon, a beloved person who will be missed and remembered fondly. Rest in peace.