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Long friendship with Olivia-Newton John leaves local singer-songwriter with many fond memories

Olivia Newton-John
Posted at 6:48 PM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 20:27:48-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Whether it was for her iconic role in Grease, her country hits of the 70s, or pop hits of the 80s, the world loved Olivia Newton-John. She died Monday after living with cancer.

"This piano is filled with autographs from people who just happened to be our friends," said singer-songwriter Kelly Lang. "The Oak Ridge Boys. Ricky Skaggs."

Lang has two very special signatures right up front on the piano, one by Sir Barry Gibb, the other by Dame Olivia Newton-John.

"She wrote, 'With Love and Light, Olivia.' Barry wrote, 'Me Too,'" Lang laughed. "I met Olivia when I was, like, 6-years-old, and I have a sweet little picture of us together. I was like, 'wow. She is just so lovely and kind.'"

Newton-John came to Middle Tennessee often over the years. That includes her 1975 show at Municipal Auditorium with opening act Billy Joel. She was interviewed by NewsChannel 5's Harry Chapman on Talk of the Town. She toured through MTSU's Murphy Center for the 1982 Physical tour.

"It was such an inspiration to me as an up-and-coming want-to-be singer that if she can do it with such grace and elegance, I hope to be somewhat like her," Lang continued. "Any time you were in her presence, it was magic, just like her song."

Lang met Newton-John again years ago while she was at a benefit held by Barry Gibb.

"She tapped me on the shoulder and asked if she could sit next to me and I was like, 'oh my gosh!'" Lang remembered. "I couldn't believe it!"

The two women had an immediate bond from their shared experience of having lived with cancer.

"I said I was a chicken," said Lang. "I quit after four rounds of chemo. It's a miracle I'm still here. She's like, 'chemo dropout', singing just like she was singing from Grease!"

Lang has written a book "I'm Not Going Anywhere" about her cancer experience and developed her character of XOXO as an outlet while undergoing treatment. It was a character Newton-John loved.

"Olivia wrote the forward for my book," said Lang. "She raised so much money and so much awareness for 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 death of her friend, Newton-John, Lang's glad to have so many memories with someone who brought the world joy and music and worked to help people living with cancer.

"I wasn't deserving of the love she sent my way, but I was so grateful," said Lang. "I pinch myself that we spent so much time together, and I was so fortunate to learn from her. I hope to grow into more like her each day. I'm so proud of her. I'm so proud people loved her like I did."