It might seem odd to include this Cambridge-born Aussie chanteuse in the 2269 Pantheon. Olivia Newton-John is best remembered for her role as Sandy in the consciously retro, ‘50s period piece that was Grease. Her singing career so exemplifies the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, so synonymous with Lycra leotards and sweatbands, that she seems a throwback, a backwards step, rather than the bold excursion into the future that 2269 represents. But bear with us. The Pantheon are nominated, and she was the choice of Daianna Karaian, guest on the very first episode of the 2269 Podcast. After a moment’s surprise, it didn’t take long for us to realise that Dame Olivia was here on merit.
She’s an environmentalist and humanitarian, honoured multiple times round the world, including being made a UN Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Environmental Program. She’s twice a breast cancer survivor, an awareness campaigner, health advocate and fundraiser with a hospital bearing her name. From basking sharks to dolphins, UNICEF to the Red Cross and the Rainforest Alliance, Olivia Newton-John has done more for the future of the planet than most.
And that musical career? It began in 1963 and continues to this day, clocking up four Grammys, five US number ones and 100 million in sales, making her amongst the best-selling women artists of all time. Whenever things got sticky, she fought her corner, whether it was cancelling tours over national fishing net policies or for control over her own destiny.
As she dons armour for her final battle, against that dragon cancer, again, and for the last time, it’s appropriate that the Queen saw fit to make her a knight, of sorts, in recognition of her work for all our futures.
And The Promise, written for the dolphins, is a great song. Check it out.
NB. This article was written back when our ‘Guests of Honour’ section was called ‘The 2269 Pantheon’.