Ballerini posted a video on Instagram of herself singing an earnest rendition of Newton-John’s Grease hit “Hopelessly Devoted to You” accompanied by the caption “Olivia Newton-John forever.”
Newton-John’s official Facebook page announced the news of her death Monday, adding that she was “surrounded by family and friends. We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.”
Prior to Newton-John’s work in 1978’s Grease alongside John Travolta, which yielded a blockbuster soundtrack and massive pop hits including the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “You’re the One That I Want,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You” (No. 3) and “Summer Nights” (No. 5), Newton-John found success on Billboard‘s country charts.
The pivotal Billboard top 10 Hot Country Songs hit “Let Me Be There,” released in 1973, led to Newton-John winning an Academy of Country Music award for most promising female vocalist. A year later, she was nominated for top female vocalist. “Let Me Be There” also earned Newton-John a Grammy win for best country vocal performance, female. Newton-John’s sweet, pure vocal tone led to songs including “If You Love Me (Let Me Know),” “I Honestly Love You,” “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “Please Mr. Please” becoming crossover Billboard pop and country hits.
At the 1974 Country Music Association Awards, Newton-John was nominated for four honors, including entertainer of the year, as well as album of the year and single of the year (“If You Love Me (Let Me Know)”). That year, she won in the CMA Awards’ female vocalist of the year category, besting past category champ Loretta Lynn, future category champs Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker, as well as another pop/country crossover star, Anne Murray.
However, Newton-John’s win also stirred up controversy. At a time when some in Nashville’s country music establishment bristled at pop artists finding success as country artists, Newton-John’s CMA Award win led to the formation of the short-lived Association of Country Entertainers (ACE) organization, which, according to Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann’s book Finding Her Voice: The Illustrated History of Women in Country Music, aimed “to preserve the identity of country music as a separate and distinct form of entertainment.” A group of country artists gathered at the Nashville home of George Jones and Tammy Wynette shortly after the 1974 CMA Awards, ultimately forming the ACE. The organization ended by late 1981.
Newton-John would go on to win Grammys for record of the year and best pop vocal performance, female for “I Honestly Love You” and would later earn another Grammy in the video of the year category, for “Physical.” Her 1976 album, Come On Over, included covers of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” and Lynn Anderson’s “Smile for Me.” She also had crossover hits with “Let It Shine” and “Come On Over,” both of which made the top five on Hot Country Songs.