The Surprising Story Behind “Hopelessly Devoted to You” by Olivia Newton-John

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

We’re still hopelessly devoted to you, Olivia Newton-John.

After the news of her passing broke, we’ve returned to the Newton-John catalog—not that we ever turned away from it. Within her many works, like “Physical” and “Xanadu,” it was impossible not to fall in love with Newton-John’s sunny, feel-good vocals. And, perhaps her most multigenerational work was her contribution to the musical romantic comedy Grease as Sandy Olsson.

To remember both Sandy and the actress that brought her to life, let’s take a closer look at the acclaimed song “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”

What Does It Mean?

The context for “Hopelessly Devoted to You” is just as sweet as its lyrics. The song was situated in the film right after John Travolta’s character, Danny Zuko, had downplayed his feelings for Sandy. Fortunately, Sandy’s new friends swooped in and invited her to a sleepover (one of the stereotypical American girl sleepovers). At this party, Sandy realized that despite Danny’s rudeness, she couldn’t shake her feelings for him.

My head is saying, “Fool, forget him”
My heart is saying, “Don’t let go
Hold on ’til the end”
And that’s what I intend to do
I’m hopelessly devoted to you
.

The Origin Story for “Hopelessly Devoted to You”

“Hopelessly Devoted to You” wasn’t originally going to be included in Grease. In fact, the song was recorded and filmed after the movie was made. According to multiple sources, Newton-John’s contract had stipulated that the singer was to receive one solo performance in the film, and without it, the producers had to make a last-minute addition.

So, Newton-John’s longtime producer John Farrar wrote the ballad “Hopelessly Devoted to You” for Newton-John’s shining moment.

“I spent the longest period writing the lyrics of any song I’ve ever written,” Farrar said of the song in a 2004 interview. “Every thesaurus and every rhyming dictionary I had, just trying to really make it work properly.”

Clearly, the Farrar/Newton-John team knew what they were doing because “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was the only song from the soundtrack to receive an Oscar nomination. Additionally, Farrar wrote the duet “You’re the One That I Want” for the Grease soundtrack which hit the No. 1 position on the U.S. charts.

“Hopelessly Devoted to You” Today

In the years since its release, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” has only continued to grow in reach. Mariah Carey famously performed the song live with Newton-John, and dancer/actress Julianne Hough performed the song as Sandy in Grease: Live (2016). Watch both of those renditions below.

Photo by Wood/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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