Olivia Newton-John (RIP) Reunites with Grease Co-Star John Travolta to Sing “You’re The One That I Want” (2002)

Amer­i­can nos­tal­gia as we know it was invent­ed in the nine­teen-sev­en­ties. Con­sid­er that decade’s pre­pon­der­ance of back­ward-look­ing pop-cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­na: Sha Na Na; Hap­py Days; “Yes­ter­day Once More”; Amer­i­can Graf­fi­ti, whose tagline asked “Where were you in ’62?”, a time just eleven years before the release of the pic­ture itself. But no piece of work stands more icon­i­cal­ly for the sev­en­ties revival of the late fifties and ear­ly six­ties than Grease. First pro­duced as a stage musi­cal in Chica­go in 1971, it grad­u­at­ed to Broad­way the next year. But Grease would­n’t take its most endur­ing form until 1978, the year that brought Ran­dal Kleis­er’s film adap­ta­tion star­ring John Tra­vol­ta and the late Olivia New­ton-John.

A 28-year-old Aus­tralian might have seemed an uncon­ven­tion­al choice for the part of Sandy Dom­brows­ki, the new girl at mid­west­ern Rydell High School. But after the alter­ation of a few details in the char­ac­ter and sto­ry, she made the role entire­ly her own. “It was Newton-John’s dul­cet inti­ma­cy as a singer that set her up per­fect­ly to play the naïve Sandy onscreen,” writes the New York­er’s Rachel Syme.

Her “squeaky prud­ish­ness and moony inno­cence as she wails ‘Hope­less­ly Devot­ed to You’ stands in such sharp, sil­ly con­trast to her vampy fall­en-woman per­sona at the end of the film that the whole thing feels like a camp com­men­tary on the pow­er of cos­tum­ing and col­lec­tive fan­ta­sy (not to men­tion a good perm).”

It did­n’t hurt that New­ton-John was already estab­lished as a singer: she’d rep­re­sent­ed the Unit­ed King­dom in 1974’s Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test (los­ing, ulti­mate­ly, to ABBA), and that very same year scored coun­try hits in the Unit­ed States. Her skills did much not just to make the Grease sound­track Amer­i­ca’s sec­ond-best-sell­ing album of 1978 (sec­ond to the sound­track of Tra­volta’s own vehi­cle Sat­ur­day Night Fever), but to keep it endur­ing­ly pop­u­lar through­out the decades since. At Grease’s 2002 DVD release par­ty, New­ton-John and Tra­vol­ta reunit­ed onstage to sing “You’re the One That I Want,” much to the delight of the audi­ence — all of whom must still remem­ber where they were in ’02, at least for those three min­utes.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Pow­er of Pulp Fic­tion’s Dance Scene, Explained by Chore­o­g­ra­phers and Even John Tra­vol­ta Him­self

Watch Simon & Gar­funkel Sing “The Sound of Silence” 45 Years After Its Release, and Just Get Haunt­ing­ly Bet­ter with Time

Jim­my Page and Robert Plant Reunite in Exot­ic Mar­rakesh, 1994

In Touch­ing Video, Artist Mari­na Abramović & For­mer Lover Ulay Reunite After 22 Years Apart

The “West Side Sto­ry” Sto­ry — Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast #114

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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  • Sandra Botticelli says:

    ..,She was Amaz­ing indeed My late fiancé was a pho­tog­ra­ph­er with His own stu­dio!! He was a huge fan of her’s He dis­played Many photograph’s of Her’s in his stu­dio.. I Sure keep love alive for her Music…. She was Sim­ply Amaz­ing … May She be rest­ing peace­ful­ly in the Arms of the Lord 🙏❤️…

  • Mary Rolfes says:


  • Mark ❤⚘🌷 says:

    Rest in peace Olivia we all Love you so much we will all Miss you and my heart goes out to Jonn East­er­ling her Hus­band and daugh­ter chloe and John Tra­vol­ta too as he has been my icon too for many years. Love you all .xxx ❤🌷⚘ .

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