A few days had passed since the death of Olivia Newton-John, and Kelly Lang didn’t quite know what to do or how to feel.
“I went back and looked at all of my emails and texts from her, and I just wept,” Lang admits during a recent interview with Taste of Country following the Aug. 8 death of her dear friend. “I mean, I miss my friend, but I also realize that I am going to miss the artist that she was, too. She was the tapestry of everybody's childhood.”
Indeed, as the world grappled with the loss of the iconic figure known best for hit songs including “I Honestly Love You” and “Physical” and movies including Grease, Lang herself was grappling with the loss of one of her very best friends.
“It's weird when one of your very best friends also happens to be world renowned,” Lang explains quietly. “I kept on thinking that while everybody is mourning her, they didn't really know the essence of what I knew. She was the best girlfriend anyone could have.”
And even as the two accomplished women both dealt with the pressures of stardom, Lang says that Newton-John always had a way of making sure she knew she was thinking of her friend back in Nashville.
“There were so many people pulling at her and wanting her attention and vying for her time,” remembers Lang, who is currently working on her upcoming album Old Soul II. “Obviously people wanted to meet her and get pictures with her, but it's really a magical thing that she had about her. It was almost angelic in a way. If you were in her presence, she made you feel that you were the only one that mattered.”
Lang draws in a deep breath.
“[Newton-John] would always take the time,” continues Lang, who also battled breast cancer, as detailed in her autobiography, I’m Not Going Anywhere. “She had stage four breast cancer and last year, I had COVID. She wins. But there she was, calling me and sending me medicines and sending me food. I would always say, ‘Olivia, enough about me, my God, how are you feeling?’ But she never wanted to talk about that. I’ve never met a more selfless human being in my life.”
Nevertheless, Lang knew that Newton-John was in fact living on borrowed time. And in 2019, when Lang and husband and country music legend TG Sheppard travelled down to Florida to do the Grease Singalong, Newton-John made sure it was a time they would never forget.
“[Newton-John] invited us to dinner the night before [the Grease Singalong], and it was such a shock to have John Travolta walk in to the dinner,” Lang says with a laugh, and then grows quieter. “I know he must be really mourning because that night, we did not know that his wife [Kelly Preston] was in the process of dying of the same disease. [Preston passed away the very next year]. He never let anybody know she was that far along, but [Newton-John] knew. They just kept things very close to their chest. And [Newton-John] would never tell me how sick she was, you know?”
And now, Lang wants to find a way to be a bit more like her.
“I just feel like I want to be a better person just being in her presence,” concludes Lang, who will release her latest single, a remake of the smash hit “Take My Breath Away,” on Aug. 26. “I just don't understand why God blessed me so much with this friendship.”