The singer-songwriter shares the memories of a long friendship with Olivia-Newton John
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Whether it was for her iconic role on Grease, her ’70s country hits, or her ’80s pop hits, the world loved Olivia Newton-John. She died on Monday after living with cancer.
“This piano is full of autographs from people who happened to be our friends,” singer-songwriter Kelly Lang said. “The Oak Ridge Boys. Ricky Skaggs.”
Lang has two very special piano signatures, one from Sir Barry Gibb, the other from Dame Olivia Newton-John.
“She wrote: ‘With love and light, Olivia.’ Barry wrote ‘Me too’,” laughed Lang. “I met Olivia when I was about 6, and I have a cute little picture of us together. I was like, ‘Wow. She’s so sweet and sweet.'”
Newton-John has come to Middle Tennessee often over the years. This includes his 1975 show at the Municipal Auditorium with opening act Billy Joel. She was interviewed by Harry Chapman of NewsChannel 5 on Talk of the Town. She visited MTSU’s Murphy Center for the 1982 physical tour.
“She was such an inspiration to me as an up-and-coming singer that if she can do it with such grace and elegance, I hope to be a bit like her,” Lang continued. “Every time you were in his presence, it was magical, just like his song.”
Lang met Newton-John again years ago while attending an event hosted by Barry Gibb.
“She tapped me on the shoulder and asked if she could sit next to me and I was like, ‘Oh my God!'” Lang recalled. “I could not believe it !”
The two women had an immediate connection from their shared experience of living with cancer.
“I said I was a chicken,” Lang said. “I quit after four rounds of chemo. It’s a miracle I’m still here. She’s like, ‘chemo quitting,’ singing like she sang in Grease!”
Lang wrote a book “I’m Not Going Anywhere” about his cancer experience and developed his XOXO persona as an outlet while undergoing treatment. He was a character Newton-John loved.
“Olivia wrote the foreword to my book,” Lang said. “She raised so much money and raised so much awareness about breast cancer, especially having her own hospital in Australia. Whatever you saw of her, she was ten times more compassionate in real life.”
With the passing of her friend, Newton-John, Lang is happy to have so many memories with someone who brought joy and music to the world and who worked to help those living with cancer.
“I didn’t deserve the love she sent me, but I was so grateful,” Lang said. “I pinch myself that we’ve spent so much time together, and I’ve been so lucky to learn from her. I hope to become more like her every day. I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud that people loved him as I did.”