Representing the purity and optimism of youth (despite being 28 at the time), the late Olivia Newton-John helped make the classic 1978 musical Grease into an international sensation that has defied the boundaries of generational age gaps. Sporting puffy blonde curls and a spritely, youthful energy, Newton-John’s Sandy would become one of the most iconic characters of popular ‘70s cinema.
Taking the classic stage musical to the silver screen was a guaranteed success for director Randal Kleiser and Paramount pictures at the time, with the electric teen musical creating a timeless soundtrack as well as two bonafide stars in Newton-John and her co-star John Travolta. Set in 1950s California, the musical is a bright, fun-loving journey about two teens, greaser Danny Zuko and Australian Sandy Olsson, who fall in love after a holiday romance.
Having worked with producer Robert Stigwood on 1977s Saturday Night Fever, Travolta was quickly brought in to play the role and had his fair share of suggestions for who should join him in the cast. Having also appeared as Doody in the production of the stage version of the film, Travolta made several recommendations to Stigwood, including the assignment of director Randal Kleiser as well as the Grammy-winning country singer Olivia Newton-John as co-lead Sandy.
Despite Travolta, Newton-John, and the rest of the cast of the classic musical being well over high-school age, the film became a runaway success, and the soundtrack for Grease spent 12 non-consecutive weeks at number one and yielded three top five singles for Newton-John.
Whilst the success of the movie and subsequent soundtrack made the singer a household name, Newton-John didn’t pick any of the Grease songs as her all-time favourite when she sat down in an interview backstage on the Rachael Ray Show.
Asked for her favourite song from her career, Newton-John stated that her pick was the track ‘I Love You, I Honestly Love You’ from the 1974 album Long Live Love.
Clarifying her choice, she stated: “It’s such a special song and I have some very profound memories of times that I’ve sung it, very intimate times, with special people in my life and all through my life it’s meant something different to me and every time I sing it it has a different resonance”. Released as her fourth studio album, Long Live Love was a major record in her development as a young country singer, releasing it at just the age of 24.
Whilst, ‘I Love You, I Honestly Love You’ held a special place in her heart, she was also fond of her 1981 song ‘Falling’. Speaking further about her choice on the show, she recognises that the tune is “not very well-known,” but goes on to say that it is “absolutely beautiful”.
Passing away on August 8th, 2022, Newton-John will be remembered as one of the most iconic musical actors of all time, lending her charm and grace to music and cinema throughout her celebrated time in both industries.