BBC is ‘totally devoted’ to Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John at the BBC (BBC Two, 10.15pm)
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We were hopelessly devoted to her, she was the one we wanted and her performances made us feel like dancin’ ‘round and ‘round.

Yes, to many, Olivia Newton-John was magic, and we spent far more than just summer nights entranced by her performances.

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When she passed away in August, aged 73 following a long battle with cancer, millions around the world went into mourning, including her many celebrity friends who paid tribute to her via statements on social media.

Elton John described her as “a beautiful and courageous woman, who I never heard complain about her illness,” before adding, “a beautiful voice and a warm and loving friend. I will miss her so much.”

Fellow Australians Kylie Minogue and Rebel Wilson described her influence on their own careers.

“Since I was 10 years old, I have loved and looked up to Olivia Newton-John, and I always will,” said Minogue, who fought her own battle against the disease a few years ago. “She was, and always will be, an inspiration to me in so many, many ways.”

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“Seeing you star in the huge Hollywood blockbuster Grease with your natural accent was so instrumental to me as a little girl, helping me to believe that it was possible for an Aussie girl to star in huge international musicals,” said Wilson, who eventually played Olivia’s daughter in the film A Few Best Men.

“You were the reason I auditioned for my high school production of Grease at 15 – I was only in the chorus, but it was a start!”

Neighbours actor-turned-singer Delta Goodrem also revealed how her idol had helped her following her own cancer diagnosis when she was a rising teenage star: “I got a beautiful letter from Olivia… She was an example of what it was to be a role model and an example of what it was to lead in kindness. She continued to tap into this pillar of strength, this constant positivity and hope.”

Newton-John was actually born in Cambridge, but moved with her family, at the age of five, to Melbourne when her father landed a job at the city’s university. She initially wanted to be a vet, but began concentrating on singing in her teens, eventually moving back to the UK in the 1960s, where her recording career took off.

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She finished fourth in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with Long Live Love (Abba’s Waterloo came top), the same year she won two Grammys (and a year after winning her first). Then along came a chance to star opposite John Travolta in the movie Grease, which many regard as the pinnacle of her career.

Now BBC Two is paying tribute to Olivia by devoting (but not hopelessly) much of its night-time Saturday schedule to her, beginning with a look back at clips from the archive. It’s followed by a rare broadcast of the much-maligned film Xanadu (a guilty pleasure and no mistake) and concludes with the 50-minute show Only Olivia.

It’s perhaps fitting that throughout the evening we’ll see her when she was at the peak of her powers – she is, after all, an icon from many of our childhoods, and will forever be suspended in time.