On July 3, 1978, “Hopelessly Devoted To You” by Olivia Newton-John was released. A hit song from the movie “Grease,” it was the only single from the “Grease” soundtrack to receive an Oscar nomination. Although Newton-John was already a music star before the movie, her performance as Sandy in “Grease” propelled her to international superstardom. Forty years later, “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” as well as all the other songs from “Grease,” can still boast countless devoted fans who can still sing every word by heart. To this day, Newton-John has sold around 100 million records worldwide, making her one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.
The youngest of two siblings, Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England on September 26, 1948. Newton-John’s parents moved the family to Melbourne, Australia in 1954. At 14 years old, Newton-John began singing. By the mid-1960s, she moved back to England to pursue a singing career. In the early 1970s, Americans began to take note of the Aussie talent. Her third album, “Let Me Be There,” earned Newton-John her first Grammy Award for Best Country Female Vocal Performance. She achieved pop-country crossover success with her 1974 album, “If You Love Me, Let Me Know.” Her signature song, “I Honestly Love You,” became her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1974, she won two Grammys and, much to the chagrin of some country music purists, won CMA’s prestigious Female Vocalist of the Year Award.
However, “Grease” was the word for propelling Newton-John’s career to the next level. When she was first offered the part of goodie-two-shoes Sandy opposite Danny Zuko (John Travolta), she insisted on a screen test. The 28-year-old star wanted to make sure she had on-screen chemistry with Travolta, who was six years her junior. The two actors clicked, and the rest became movie history.
A part of Newton-John’s contract for “Grease” stipulated that would have a solo song in the film. Halfway through shooting the movie, Newton-John’s producer finally came up with the song, “Hopelessly Devoted To You.” The scene when Newton-John performs it in the backyard while at the Pink Ladies sleepover was recorded after the movie wrapped. It became the film’s only Oscar-nominated song. Newton-John became the second woman in Billboard history to have two songs simultaneously on the Billboard Top 5, “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and “You’re The One That I Want,” A year earlier, Linda Ronstadt had first achieved this feat.
To this day, “Grease” is still one of the most popular movies of all time. The “Grease” soundtrack became the gold standard for movie soundtracks, thanks in part to Newton-John’s performance.