Olivia Newton-John, ‘Grease’ Star and Musical Icon

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Trinidadian Steve Dixon with Actress/Singer Olivia Newton-John at the United Nations, 1997

By Steve Dixon

Trinidadian Steve Dixon with Actress/Singer Olivia Newton-John at the United Nations, 1997

It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing Olivia Newton-John, the iconic pop singer and movie star, whom I had the immense honor of meeting years ago. Reportedly she died of breast cancer on August 8 in California. She was aged 73.

‘Grease’ Star Actress

Born in England in 1948, Newton-John grew up in Australia and subsequently found a home in California. Her long music career began when she released her first single in 1966, Till You Say You’ll Be Mine. Newton-John was best known for her stellar singing and dancing performance as Sandy Olsson in the 1978 movie, Grease, a musical and love story. In the hit movie she plays an exchange student who has a summer romance with gang leader Danny Zuko, played by John Travolta. Grease is considered the most successful movie musical of all time. She went on to make other movies, including Xanadu and A Few Best Men.

Hit Singer

Newton-John produced hit song after hit song. Topping her extensive list is Physical, released in 1981 and spending 10 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 songs. Her other successful songs are You Are The One That I Want, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Magic, Xanadu, and Please Mister Please – just to name a few. This musical superstar was a four-time Grammy Award winner.

Meeting Olivia

In addition to being an outstanding actress and singer, Newton-John was an activist for humanitarian causes: the environment, cancer research and animal rights. Passionate about the environment, in 1990 she was named Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

I have been a fan of Olivia, and I had the distinct honor of meeting her at a 1997 UNEP awards event at UN Headquarters in New York where she and other notable women were individually recognized for their remarkable work on the environment. I found her to be down-to-earth, easy to mingle with and a person with a wonderful personality. She was very friendly and accommodating to the guests at the event, and her auric presence lit up the room.

Her family, friends and fans will sorely miss her, but her celebrated body of work will live on forever. I will always be her fan. RIP, sweet Olivia.

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