Olivia Newton-John to get state memorial in Australia

Olivia Newton-John died at 73 on Aug 8 at her home in Southern California. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP, REUTERS) - Singer Olivia Newton-John will be honoured with a state memorial service in her adoptive homeland Australia, the authorities said on Thursday (Aug 11), touting an upbeat sendoff for the late Grammy-winning actress.

The British-born, Australian-raised star of the hit musical Grease (1978) died at 73 on Monday at her home in Southern California.

The cause of death was not stated, but Newton-John had spent three decades trying to - as she put it - "win over" breast cancer.

Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews said Newton-John's family had accepted the offer of a state memorial that "would be much more of a concert than a funeral".

"It will be an appropriate celebration of such a rich and generous life," Mr Andrews said.

A date for the memorial has not yet been set.

Newton-John's widower, Mr John Easterling, on Thursday posted a tribute to her and thanked fans for the "vast ocean of love and support" that has come with her passing.

"She was the most courageous woman I've ever known," he said.

"In her most difficult times she always had the spirit, the humour and the will power to move things into the light."

Tributes flowed in Australia for Newton-John, who was hailed for her passionate work in promoting cancer research and wellness care after battling the disease for 30 years.

In Sydney, locals and tourists shared warm memories of growing up with the soundtrack of Newton-John, including songs such as Physical (1981) and Hopelessly Devoted To You (1978).

"I used to watch it (Grease) a lot when I was a kid and teenager, so yeah, it's a big shock. She's an Australian icon, so very upsetting, and way too young to die," Dr Clara Zwack, a science research fellow, said in Sydney.

Grease starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. PHOTOS: MEDIACORP

Requests poured in to Australian Broadcasting Corp to show Newton-John singing the 1980 hit title song from the movie Xanadu.

The pop star first battled breast cancer in 1992 and in 2017 disclosed a recurrence had spread to her lower back, forcing her to cancel performances.

Her death followed the loss of two other Australian musical figures in just over a week - Judith Durham, lead singer of The Seekers, and Indigenous singer and songwriter Archie Roach.

"She's done so much for Australia with ... the wellness clinics down in Melbourne, so, yeah, real shock, sadness," said 69-year-old Sydney resident Lynette.

Sydney Opera House is lit up in pink in memory of singer and actress Olivia Newton-John on Aug 10, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called Newton-John a "joyful glow in our lives".

"Her legacy will live on, in her music, her films and her determination that one day we will find a cure for cancer," Mr Albanese said on Twitter.

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