Friends and family to farewell Olivia Newton-John at state memorial

Olivia Newton-John’s family, friends and dignitaries will gather with stars of the stage and screen for today’s state memorial service at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall.

Members of the public will also be among the 2500-strong audience for the Australian music icon’s farewell, in the city she called home for many years.

Dame Olivia Newton-John’s memorial service is being held at Hamer Hall on Sunday afternoon.Credit:Simon Schluter

Newton-John was born in Cambridge in the UK and emigrated to Australia with her family aged six. She died on August 8 last year at her home in southern California, aged 73.

Newton-John’s remarkable career brought her worldwide fame and made her one of Australia’s most loved and widely respected cultural assets. Her work spanned five decades, taking off with a trip to London in 1966, after she won a talent contest on television show Sing, Sing, Sing, hosted by the late Johnny O’Keefe.

Newton-John’s 1971 debut album was the first of almost 30 studio albums, six live albums and more than 100 million album sales over the course of her career. A four-time Grammy Award winner, she topped the charts numerous times, and had hits with I Honestly Love You, If Not For You, Banks of the Ohio, Let Me Be There and Xanadu among many others.

One of her final recordings was a new duet with Dolly Parton on the country music icon’s 1973 hit Jolene. The pair were friends for many years, and Parton said Newton-John was “one of my favourites of all time” when they made this new version of Jolene.

Newton-John’s many screen roles included 1978 musical Grease, playing Australian teenager Sandy Olson alongside John Travolta’s Danny Zuko. The screen adaptation of Grease is still one of the most successful musicals of all time, and featured Newton-John singing You’re the One That I Want and Summer Nights with Travolta.

As well as her hugely successful career, Newton-John will be remembered for her tireless fundraising work and the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, sponsoring global research for cancer treatment.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, Newton-John used her own much-publicised heath battles to raise awareness about the illness. In 2012, she partnered with Austin Health in Melbourne to establish the Olivia Newton-John Wellness and Research Centre.

Newton-John received an OBE in 1979, and was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2019, and a Companion of the Order of Australia.

In 2002, she was inducted to the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame.
Australian singer Delta Goodrem, who portrayed Newton-John in a 2018 television biopic, is among the artists performing at today’s memorial service.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Newton-John was “an inspiration to many around the world” and her work in cancer research and treatment had “saved lives and changed lives” over many years.

“Her music was the soundtrack to a generation,” the Premier said.

“We know Victorians are eager to celebrate the life of a driving force in medical research and an icon of film and music, with a service befitting her international acclaim.”

Newton-John is survived by her second husband John Easterling, who she married in 2008; daughter Chloe Lattanzi, sister Sarah Newton-John and brother Toby Newton-John.

The memorial service will be livestreamed from 4pm.

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