Olivia Newton-John, the woman with three names, is busier than three people.
Millions of fans are still hopelessly devoted to her singing, her songwriting, her bobby-soxer appeal in the 1978 film Grease, her leotard and headband in the 1981-82 "Physical" video. They love her, they honestly love her.
Since "If Not for You" broke her to the world in 1970, music and performance have been Newton-John passions. By phone from a traffic-locked limousine in Karlsruhe, Germany, Newton-John, 61, marvels at her sweet, bizarre line of work, in which one intimately touches millions one never meets: "When you do meet people and they tell you about how, at a particular time in their lives, your music affected them, it's something to be thankful for."
Gratitude and grace will be on display this week, when Newton-John headlines a two-day benefit at West Chester University. On Friday, she'll give the keynote address for the university's 11th annual integrative health conference. Integrative health - a multistrategy approach to physical and spiritual wellness - is a Newton-John passion. She has begun building a health center with her name on it in Melbourne, Australia. To raise funds, she led a three-week, 142-mile trek along the Great Wall of China in April 2008.
At West Chester, she'll speak of her own face-off with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 1992, she is today a cancer-free advocate for cancer research and women's health.
Sessions on cancer prevention take place on Saturday, plus a dinner, followed by a special Newton-John concert. What makes it special is that she will perform her 2006 album Grace and Gratitude in its entirety.
"I've never done a concert other than my hits over the years," she says, "and I've never had the chance to do something like this."
Written after the mysterious disappearance of longtime companion Patrick McDermott in 2005, Grace, which Newton-John describes as "an album I made for my own healing, but also to promote healing in others," explored recovery and hope in a mix of world music, the Upanishads, Kabbalah, the Prayer of St. Francis, and heartfelt encouragement.
The West Chester event will benefit the nonprofit Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER), on whose board Newton-John sits. The rain forest, and preserving biodiversity and the human rights of indigenous people, are more Newton-John passions. Her husband, John Easterling, is the CEO of Amazon Herb Company, which manufactures health products based on rain-forest herbs; he also has worked to help indigenous people in Peru get title to their land. Amazon Herb donates a portion of its profits to ACEER.
"Personal health, the health of the planet, healing - it's all connected," she says. "It all really works as one thing."
Roger Mustalish, chair of the department of health in the college of health sciences at West Chester University and president of the ACEER board, had the idea of inviting Newton-John.
"I thought it would be a good opportunity for her to tell her own story at the conference," Mustalish says. "She espouses a whole-person, holistic approach to treatment of breast cancer."
He professes awe at Newton-John's advocative energy. "She's fabulous that way - it's a side that most people don't recognize about her," he says. "They know about the Grammys and Grease, and that she's a world-class entertainer. But they don't know her tireless work for the rain forest, for cancer research, for women's health."
She's also effective. "She has a phenomenal network," Mustalish says. "She has connected us with other champions of these causes, such as Prince Charles. She has the capacity to get to the people who make the decisions, and that's really how she gets things done."
When Mustalish asked Newton-John if she'd do a fundraiser, the idea of performing Grace and Gratitude hit her.
"My husband says it's his favorite album," Newton-John says. "He likes it because it says we're all connected, not only bodies, but also through the emotions. One day I just had this flash, that this would be the perfect thing to do for this benefit."
She called Canadian songwriter Amy Sky, her cowriter and collaborator on Grace. "She's so excited that she's bringing a band down from Toronto just for the conference," Newton-John says.
Sky writes by iPhone that "Olivia and I always envisioned the music as being transformative for the listener, and we are excited to share it live in its entirety for the first time."
In Germany for an award for her contributions to breast-cancer awareness, Newton-John acknowledges she's overbooked. No is a word she can't say, evidently. And yet, into the fifth decade of a career that began in 1963, her voice remains flexible and strong.
"When I was young, you know, I used to just sing," she says. "But after I had my daughter, Chloe, in 1986, I didn't sing for three years. So I started taking voice lessons. I keep in shape by doing vocal exercises three times a week. When I'm drying my hair, I'll do warm-ups."
She laughs and adds: "I do a lot of multitasking."
Olivia Newton-John at West Chester University:
7:30 p.m.: Keynote address, Asplundh Concert Hall.
8 a.m.-1 p.m.: 11th Annual Integrative Health Conference: Integrative Strategies for Breast Cancer, Sykes Student Union
5:30-7:30 p.m.: Reception and dinner. Ballroom, Sykes Student Union.
8 p.m.: Olivia Newton-John Concert, "Voices for Healing ... Our Planet ... Ourselves," Asplundh Concert Hall.
Tickets: $25 for keynote address. Conference: $75 for professionals, $45 for the public, $25 for students. Concert: $50-$100. Weekend passes available. Proceeds benefit ACEER.
Information: 877-281-6824, www.wcupa.edu/voicesforhealing