Olivia Newton-John: From West Hampstead to worldwide fame
- Credit: PA
Tributes have been paid to Dame Olivia Newton, whose pop career began in West Hampstead.
The singer died “peacefully” in California on Monday, aged 73, husband John Easterling announced.
Dame Olivia is best known for playing Sandy in the film Grease, as well as for campaigning on animal rights and environmental issues, and on breast cancer, with which she was first diagnosed in 1992.
Dame Olivia was born in Cambridge in 1948 to Welshman Professor Brin Newton-John and his German-born wife Irene, who was the daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Born. The family moved to Australia, while she was a young child.
In the mid-1960s she moved to London, living at Dennington Park Road in West Hampstead.
Her debut single in 1966, Till You Say You'll Be Mine, written by Jackie DeShannon was recorded at Decca Studios and released by the label as the prize for winning the Australian television talent competition Sing, Sing, Sing.
For several years, Dame Olivia was in a relationship with The Shadows' Bruce Welch, living in London, including for a time in Vane Close, overlooking Hampstead High Street.
The one-off Decca single did not chart, and it was not until 1971 that success came with a cover of Bob Dylan's If Not For You.
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Superstardom arrived in 1978 with Grease, and its huge-selling soundtrack.
John Travolta wrote on Monday that Dame Olivia "made all of our lives so much better".
The cast of Grease the musical, currently at the Dominion Theatre in the West End paid tribute, with Olivia Moore, who plays Sandy, saying she heard the news during the interval and told the audience after the show.
Dame Olivia became a prominent breast cancer campaigner, after being given the first of three cancer diagnoses in 1992. Following her initial battle with the disease, she had a partial mastectomy and reconstruction. Further cancer diagnoses followed in 2013 and 2018, when the singer said she was treating the illness “naturally” and was using cannabis oil for the pain.
Mr Easterling said in an Instagram post: “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.”
She is survived by her husband and her daughter.