Olivia Newton-John dies aged 73: John Travolta leads tributes to Grease star

Rebecca Barry reports as tributes flood in for Dame Olivia Newton-John, who has died at the age of 73

Dame Olivia Newton-John has died at the age of 73, her husband has confirmed.

In a statement posted on social media, Olivia Newton-John’s widower John Easterling said she passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends."

He added: "We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time."

Dame Olivia is perhaps best known for her starring role in the 1978 film Grease, in which she starred opposite John Travolta as Sandy.

She also enjoyed a chart-topping singing career with 1981 hit 'Let's Get Physical' and 'Xanadu,' the title song from the soundtrack to the 1980 musical of the same name.

Her performance earned nominations for multiple awards including two Golden Globes, and various other film accolades.Travolta and popstar Kylie Minogue led celebrity tributes to Dame Olivia.

Travolta said her “impact was incredible” and signing off his message in the actress' memory as “your Danny."

“My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better,” he wrote on Instagram.

“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!”

Minogue wrote on Twitter, alongside an archive picture of the pair together: "Since I was ten years old, I have loved and looked up to Olivia Newton John. And, I always will.

"She was, and always will be, an inspiration to me in so many, many ways. My deepest condolences to her family and loved ones. x ONJ4EVER."

Adding to the tributes, Peter Andre shared a picture of the pair together, as he hailed Dame Olivia as “a true icon” who was “warm, kind and caring to everyone”.

“I will never forget this night. I had the privilege of performing alongside Olivia Newton John for the Spina Bifida charity concert in Australia,” he said.

Dionne Warwick, who recorded a duet with Newton-John in 2006, tweeted: “Another angelic voice has been added to the Heavenly Choir.

“Not only was Olivia a dear friend, but one of the nicest people I had the pleasure of recording and performing with. I will most definitely miss her."

American filmmaker and actor James Gunn called her his “first real crush” and revealed he previously bought her home in Malibu.

“Really sad to hear about the passing of Olivia Newton-John,” he tweeted.

“My first real crush as a kid."

Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin recalled starring alongside Dame Olivia in the 1996 film It’s My Party, one of the first films to address the topic of Aids patients dying with dignity.

She took to Twitter to express her sadness at Dame Olivia's passing.

Filmmaker Edgar Wright, whose credits include Last Night in Soho and Baby Driver, added: “Olivia Newton John so completely dominated the charts and Top Of The Pops when I was a kid, it felt like she was pop music.

“And yes, Xanadu is still a stone cold classic song. RIP.”

Dame Olivia is survived by her husband, as well as her daughter Chloe Lattanzi, who paid tribute to her mother with a selection of images on Instagram.

Dame Olivia was a multi-platinum recording artist as well as an actor, with two singles and two albums earning the stamp from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The singer also represented the UK in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with the song Long Live Love.

She finished fourth in an historic competition, held in Brighton, in which she lost out to future megastars Abba after they performed their hit song Waterloo.

Cancer diagnosis

Dame Olivia became 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.

She remained cancer-free until a recurrence in 2013, but revealed she had been diagnosed with cancer for the third time in three decades in September 2018.

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in 2006. Credit: AP

At the time, she told Australian news programme Sunday Night that doctors had found a tumour in her lower back in 2017.

The singer said she was treating the illness “naturally” and was using cannabis oil made from marijuana her husband grows in California to alleviate the pain.

“Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” Mr Easterling said in his Instagram post.

Olivia Newton-John in 1974. Credit: PA

“Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer.”

Dame Olivia was born in Cambridge, England, to Welshman Professor Brin Newton-John and his German-born wife Irene, who was the daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Born.

The youngest of three children, she moved with her family to Melbourne, Australia, when she was five.

Tributes flood in

The Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce said flowers will be laid on Dame Olivia's star on the Walk Of Fame in Los Angeles.

She was honoured with the star almost 41 years ago, on 5 August, 1981.

The news of her death was met with an outpouring of tributes from Hollywood stars, including Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who recalled starring alongside Dame Olivia in the 1996 film It’s My Party, one of the first films to address the topic of Aids patients dying with dignity.

She said on Twitter: “I am SO saddened at the news of the passing of Olivia Newton John. I remember being so star struck when I met her at my first Hollywood gathering for Paramount.

"She was the sweetest and brightest light and I loved getting to know her on It’s My Party. RIP dear, sweet Olivia.”

James Gunn called Dame Olivia her his “first real crush” in a tribute and revealed he previously bought her home in Malibu.

The American filmmaker and actor tweeted: “Really sad to hear about the passing of Olivia Newton-John.

“My first real crush as a kid. I loved Grease & her music and I coincidentally also bought and lived in for a while the wonderful home she built in Malibu. May she Rest In Peace.”

US actress Rosanna Arquette tweeted: “Fly with the angels Olivia Newton John.”

Star Trek's George Takei referenced one of Dame Olivia's solo songs from Grease in his nod to the actor, tweeting: “We have lost a great, iconic artist in Olivia Newton John, gone too soon from us at age 73.

“I trust she is now in the great Xanadu beyond. Know that we are forever hopelessly devoted to you, Olivia. Rest in song and mirth."

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Actress Mandy Moore thanked Dame Olivia "for the joy you brought countless people around the world," on Instagram.

Fellow Australian actress Rebel Wilson also sung Dame Olivia's praises, writing: "You were a true icon and I absolutely adored you!"

Chef Nigella Lawson posted: “Her memory is already a blessing.”