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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Olivia Newton-John spoke about battle with breast cancer during appearance in The Villages

Music was a weapon for Olivia Newton-John, in her fight against breast cancer. The 73-year old singer lost that 30-year battle on Monday, but triumphed over fear with the help of a song.
“Everybody has challenges,” Newton-John said during a performance at The Sharon in 2017. “My biggest challenge was breast cancer in 1992. I had a rough time and I returned to live on my farm in Australia.

Olivia Newton-John on stage at The Sharon in 2017. (Photo by Tony Violanti.)

“One night, I had a terrible anxiety attack. I woke up in the middle of the night and I got out of bed and sat at my little electric piano. I wrote a song that summed up how I felt about beating cancer or anything else.”
She then sang “Not Gonna Give Into It,” a cancer-survivor’s anthem, with the lyric, “In the end, it’s all up to me.”

It’s not a sad, mournful song. To the contrary, the tune has a jumping Latin beat and is about living life to the fullest, which is exactly what Olivia Newton-John did.

She was full of energy and music, on that memorable April night in The Villages five years ago.
 “Hello Villages,” she said after entering the stage. “How lovely it is to be here. I’m going to be showing some videos and singing my old songs; I hope you remember them.”
How could we forget?

Olivia Newton-John and her band on stage in 2017 at The Sharon. (Photo by Tony Violanti.)

The woman who made Sandy part of our pop-cultural history in “Grease” was right there in person. All that was missing was John Travolta – who lives in Central Florida – as Danny.

Travolta posted the following on social media as news of Newton-John’s death was announced:

“My dearest Olivia, you made all our lives so much better. 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.

It all seemed like yesterday when Newton-John – sporting a black leather jacket with the name ‘Olivia’ stitched on the back—teamed up with singer Steve Real for a duet on “Hopelessly Devoted To You.”
You could feel the goosebumps pop in the packed audience. All of a sudden, it felt like 1978 all over again.

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta rock out in “Grease.”

“I don’t know how many of you know that next year will be the 40th anniversary of ‘Grease,” Newton-John said. She got “greasy” as she romped through a couple of other numbers from the movie: “We Go Together” and “Summer Nights.”

There was so much more than “Grease” to Newton-John’s career. She sold nearly 100 -million records with such hits as “If You Love Me Let Me Know,” I Honestly Love You,” “Let Me Be There,” and “Physical.”
Newton-John was a rare performer who could sing country, dance, pop and rock. In the late ‘70s and ‘80s, she seemed to be everywhere from radios to jukeboxes to MTV to movies.

Villager Diana Arlt, a singer herself, was “hopelessly devoted” to Newton-John’s music recordings and acting roles.
“Olivia Newton John is still a beautiful woman with a fantastic vocal range and terrific charisma,” Arlt told me when Newton-John appeared here. “She has always been a favorite of mine.  I love her songs:  ‘Physical,” Let Me Be There,’ ‘Have You Never Been Mellow,’ ‘Xanadu,’ and ‘Magic.’”

One song, however, stands above all others for Arlt.

“Hopelessly Devoted to You’ from ‘Grease’ is my favorite because you can see the love she feels for John Travolta. When she sings about ‘holding on to the end is just what I intend to do,’ it’s very moving.

“I think the movie made her a big star because of the different roles that she played within the same character. She starts out as virginal Sandy and goes on to be a real sex symbol.  Couple that with her wonderful dancing ability and you have a hit film and big star in the making. There will never be anyone like Olivia Newton-John,”Arlt said.
Michelle Monteleone was in grammar school  when she first saw and heard Olivia Newton-John.
“She was my favorite when I was growing up,” Monteleone said. “I used to wear her wigs and sing her songs in my room, pretending to be her. I loved her songs.”

As she did in her career on stage and screen, Newton-John inspired others by the way she faced cancer.

Near the end of her concert at The Sharon, Newton-John sang another song that expressed her hope for the future.
“My daughter (singer/actress Chloe Lattanzi) grew up loving this song,” Newton-John said before singing, “Over the Rainbow.”

“This song has always meant so much to me,” she added. “I wanted to share it.”

 I described that moment this way:
She stood on the side of the stage, accompanied only by Bryant at the piano. Then, Newton-John created a shared moment that embraced far more than just a song.

Olivia Newton-John closed the concert in The Villages with “Over the Rainbow” accompanied by pianist Dane Bryant. (Photo by Tony Violanti.)

“Over the Rainbow” is about faith, home, and hope for a better tomorrow — so is Oliva Newton-John. 

Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.

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