Olivia Newton-John, who sang a number of the most important hits of the 1970s and ’80s while recasting her image because the virginal girl nearby into a spandex-clad vixen — a change reflected in miniature by her starring role in “Grease,” one among the foremost popular movie musicals of its era — died on Monday at her ranch in Southern California. She was 73.
The death was announced by her husband, John Easterling. She had lived with a carcinoma diagnosis since 1992 and in 2017 announced that the cancer had returned and spread. For years she was a prominent advocate for cancer research and had started a foundation in her name to support it.
Ms. Newton-John amassed No. 1 hits, chart-topping albums and 4 records that sold quite two million copies each. quite anything, she was likable, even beloved.
In the earlier phase of her career, this English-Australian singer beguiled listeners with a high, supple, vibrato-warmed voice that paired amiably with the type of swooning middle-of-the-road pop that, within the mid-1970s, often passed for country and western.
Her performance on the charts made that blurring clear. She scored seven Top 10 hits on Billboard’s Country chart, two of which became back-to-back overall No. 1 hits in 1974 and ’75. First came “I Honestly Love You,” an earnest declaration co-written by Peter Allen and Jeff Barry, followed by “Have You Never Been Mellow,” a feather of a song written by the producer of the many of her biggest albums, John Farrar.
“I Honestly Love You” also won two of the singer’s four Grammys, for record of the year and best female pop vocal performance.
The combination of Ms. Newton-John’s consistently benign music — she was never a favourite of critics — and shapely but squeaky-clean image caused many writers to match her to earlier blond ingénues like Doris Day and Sandra Dee. “Innocent, I’m not,” Ms. Newton-John told Rolling Stone in 1978. “People still seem to ascertain me because the girl nearby. Doris Day had four husbands,” she said, yet she was still viewed as “the virgin.”
An entry into movies in 1978 aimed to place the singer’s chaste image behind her, starting with “Grease.” Her character, Sandy, transformed from a pigtailed square smitten with John Travolta’s bad-boy Danny to a gum-smacking bad girl. “Grease” became one among the very best grossing movie musicals ever, besting even “The Sound of Music.” Its soundtrack was the second best-selling album of the year, beaten only by the soundtrack for “Saturday Night Fever,” which also starred Mr. Travolta.
The “Grease” soundtrack spawned two No. 1 hits, both sung by the co-stars, including the manically lusty “You’re the One That I Want” and therefore the doo-wop romp “Summer Nights.” A ballad Ms. Newton-John sang alone, “Hopelessly dedicated to You,” earned the film’s lone Oscar nomination, for best song.
Applying the evolution of her “Grease” character to her singing career, Ms. Newton-John titled her next album “Totally Hot,” and presented herself on the duvet in shoulder-to-toe leather. The album, released at the top of 1978, went platinum, yielding the rock-oriented “A Little More Love” with the road, “Where did my innocence go?”
The album featured Ms. Newton-John singing during a somewhat more forceful voice. Though her sales dipped because the 1970s became the ’80s, by early within the decade she began the foremost commercially potent period in her career, peaking with the only “Physical,” which spent 10 weeks on Billboard’s top perch. Later, the magazine declared it to be the most important song of the 1980s.
Olivia Newton-John was born on Sept. 26, 1948, in Cambridge, England, the youngest of three children of Brinley and Irene (Born) Newton-John. Her mother was the daughter of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Born. Her Welsh-born father had been an MI5 secret agent during war II and afterward served as headmaster at Cambridgeshire highschool for Boys.
When Ms. Newton-John was 6, her family immigrated to Melbourne, Australia, where her father worked as a university professor and administrator. At 14, she formed her first group, Sol Four, with three girls from school. Her beauty and confidence soon earned her solo performances on local radio and television shows under the name “Lovely Livvy.” On “The Go!! Show” she met the singer Pat Carroll, with whom she would form a duet, also as her eventual producer, Mr. Farrar, who later married Ms. Carroll.
Ms. Newton-John won an area TV talent contest whose prize was a visit to Britain. While tarrying there, she recorded her first single, “’Til You Say You’ll Be Mine,” which Decca Records released in 1966.
After Ms. Carroll moved to London, she and Ms. Newton-John formed the duet Pat and Olivia, which toured Europe. When Ms. Carroll’s visa expired, forcing her to travel back to Australia, Ms. Newton-John stayed in London to figure solo.
In 1970, she was asked to hitch a crudely manufactured group named Toomorrow, formed by the American producer Don Kirshner in an effort to repeat his earlier success with the Monkees. Following his grand design, the group starred during a science-fiction film written for them and recorded its soundtrack. Both projects tanked.
“It was terrible, and that i was terrible in it,” she later told The ny Times.
Her debut solo album, “If Not for You,” was released in 1971, its title track a canopy of a Dylan song.
After some duds within the us, Ms. Newton-John released the album “Let Me Be There” (1973), which led to a Grammy win for best female country vocal performance.
Two key changes in pop boosted her career that decade: the increase of “soft rock” in reaction to the harder genres of the late 1960s, and therefore the mainstreaming — some would say the neutering — of country and western, also epitomized by stars like John Denver and Anne Murray.
The latter trend became a problem in 1974, after Ms. Newton-John was chosen female vocalist of the year by the country and western Association over more traditional stars like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. Protests led to the formation of the fleeting Association of Country Entertainers. Yet, after Ms. Newton-John recorded her “Don’t Stop Believin’,” album in Nashville in 1976, the friction eased.
The second phase of her career, which began with “Grease,” found further success through a duet with Andy Gibb, “I Can’t Help It,” followed by an effort to expand her acting career with the 1980 musical film “Xanadu,” with Kelly. While the movie floundered, its soundtrack went double-platinum, boasting hits like “Magic” (which commanded Billboard’s No. 1 spot for four weeks) and therefore the title song, recorded with the electrical Light Orchestra.
A campy Broadway show supported the film opened in 2007 to some success.
Ms. Newton-John’s smash “Physical” also yielded the primary video album to hit the market, with clips for all the album’s tracks. “Olivia Physical” won the Grammy in 1982 for video of the year.
She was paired again with Mr. Travolta within the 1983 movie “Two of a sort,” an effort to repeat the success of “Grease.” But the film disappointed whilst its soundtrack proved popular, especially the song “Twist of Fate.”
Ms. Newton-John was named a politician of the Order of British Empire in 1979.
By the mid-’80s, her career had cooled. For several years she crop on work to worry for her daughter, Chloe Rose, whom she had together with her husband at the time, the actor Matt Lattanzi; that they had met on the set of “Xanadu” and married in 1984. They divorced in 1995. She married Mr. Easterling, the founding father of the Amazon Herb Company, in 2008.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by her daughter, Chloe Rose Lattanzi; her sister, Sarah Newton-John; and her brother, Toby.
Ms. Newton-John learned she had carcinoma in 1992 and have become a fanatical advocate for research into the disease. Despite her cancer treatments she continued to release albums and tour but did not gain on the charts. She also acted in movies and on television.
In May 2017, she disclosed that her cancer had returned which it had metastasized to her lower back. She published a memoir, “Don’t Stop Believin,’” in 2018.
To the top Ms. Newton-John firmly believed in her audience-friendly approach to music. “It annoys me when people think because it’s commercial, it’s bad,” she told Rolling Stone. “It’s completely opposite. If people love it, that’s what it’s alleged to be.”