The unexpected death of Olivia Newton-John at age 73 in August 2022 shocked the world, especially the world of music which Newton-John had been a part of for decades. Luckily, fans may have new music from the deceased star thanks to a recording of Jolene sung by Newton-John and Dolly Parton just months before her death.
The Grease star battled cancer three times
Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England in 1948 but grew up in Australia. Before she kicked off her acting career as Sandy in the 1978 hit film Grease, Newton-John got her start as a singer in her teens. Her third album Let Me Be There put her on the map in the United States, earning her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocalist.
After she found major success in Hollywood following Grease, Newton-John starred in the bizarre 1980 film Xanadu which tanked at the box office. Around the same time, the singer re-invented her look for her next album Physical, which featured the iconic pop hit “Let’s Get Physical.”
In 1992, Newton-John’s life changed forever with a shocking breast cancer diagnosis. After several years of chemotherapy and a partial mastectomy, she survived her battle with cancer. She continued to make music as part of her advocacy for cancer research, donating proceeds from her 2005 album Stronger Than Before which featured songs Newton-John thought would give comfort and hope to patients and their families.
In 2017, Newton-John was forced to cancel her North American tour after learning her cancer had returned, spreading to her lower back. After an aggressive treatment approach, the cancer subsided once more. Sadly, the following year Newton-John revealed that cancer had returned for a third time.
In an Australian radio interview, the singer said she was coupling radiation with lots of healthy meals and cannabis oil for pain relief. “I believe I will win over it,” she said. “That’s my goal.” On August 8, 2022, Olivia Newton-John died after her long battle.
Jolene video shows Newton-John months before her death
A video of Newton-John and Parton recording the duet together was released in February 2023, with Dolly calling her good friend Olivia one of her “favorites of all time.” Newton-John’s husband John Easterling, who is just beginning to speak publicly about his wife since her death, called their rendition of Parton’s famous tune “gorgeous.”
“She, as I do, [felt] like everyone has a very unique and special gift,” Easterling said in a recent interview. “I mean, for her, it was her voice… She understood it was a gift, and she gave that very generously. She continued to [give generously] right up to the last thing she did with Dolly Parton. That was just part of her gift, part of her giving, part of her sharing, part of her loving.”
As for the Jolene and 9 to 5 singer, Parton never talked publicly about the duet she recorded with Newton-John, even after her death. “So happy that our lives crossed paths,” Parton shared on her Instagram page following the death of her friend. “I know her voice is singing beautifully with the angels.”
More from us: In Memoriam: Celebrities We Lost in 2022
Easterling’s powerful words about grappling with grief and loss reveal just how special Newton-John’s legacy is to people all over the world. “A guy I was flying with said, ‘You know, John, when you’re lucky enough to have found your true soul mate, and you share a heart, when one passes, the other has the obligation to live life for both,” Easterling recalled. “And that was very empowering and powerful for me, and, you know, and gave a way forward.”