There are many reasons why the 1978 film Grease became an immediate international classic: the 1950s Americana imagery, stunning dream sequences and dance numbers, and of course, Olivia Newton-John’s iconic performance as Sandy Olsson.
From the vampy, leather-clad “You’re the One That I Want” to her lovelorn backyard ballad, “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” Newton-John commanded the screen. You’d be hard-pressed to find a musical-lover who hasn’t swooned in a nightgown pretending to be heartsick Sandy. (Bonus points if you also swirled pieces of paper around in some water.)
Indeed, Olivia Newton-John was beloved by fans and fellow celebs alike. After losing her 30-year battle with breast cancer, several stars shared their own tributes online, including Kelly Clarkson, Rita Wilson, and Kate Hudson.
28-year-old country artist Kelsea Ballerini posted a captivating a capella rendition of “Hopelessly Devoted” to her Instagram with the caption, “olivia newton-john forever.” The blonde-haired, blue-eyed singer evoked the same longing as Newton-John, complete with Ballerini’s trademark vocal runs.
Kelly Clarkson also shared a tribute to the late Australian singer on the Kelly Clarkson Show. Clarkson and Newton-John had similar starts to their career, both winning televised talent shows at a young age. Clarkson’s powerhouse vocals glided through the ballad while two roller skating dancers literally glided across the stage behind her.
Like Newton-John, Rita Wilson is an accomplished actress, singer, and activist. Wilson shared a touching tribute by singing her 1974 track, “I Honestly Love You.” The caption reads, “her tenderness, joy, love, and light live on. No one does this one better than Olivia Newton-John.” As Wilson’s voice catches on tears, you can feel the deep admiration she had for her late predecessor.
Kate Hudson is certainly more well-known for her acting than singing, but her voice is gorgeous just the same. Hudson sang along to an instrumental track of “Hopelessly Devoted” while she cradled her sleepy, messy-haired toddler. Her soulful rasp added a bit of grit to the classic ballad. “Thank you for sharing your light to the world as it moved and shaped little girls like me,” the actress wrote.
Hudson’s mother, Goldie Hawn, shared her own musical tribute to Newton-John: a clip from a 1990 benefit for Mothers and Others For a Livable World. The video shows Hawn, Newton-John, Meryl Streep, Mette Midler, and Cher singing Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.” The energy of so many powerful, talented women is palpable even all these years later.
Newton-John’s passing has undoubtedly sent shockwaves throughout the world. But even stronger are the waves she created in her decades-long career, influencing entire generations of performers, musicians, and activists alike.