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A tribute to the Queen of Housewife Rock: Helen Reddy

Mon 19th Oct 2020

The late Helen Reddy. Picture: Tony Russell/Redferns
The late Helen Reddy. Picture: Tony Russell/Redferns

Not only did her hit anthem "I Am Woman" inspire women from all walks of life in 1972, but Helen Reddy accomplished a great deal in her career, in numbers too big to ignore. Whilst many remember the Australian singer for her feminism anthem that helped women all over the world feel empowered and invincible, she had an array of other well known hits such as "Delta Dawn," "Angie Baby," and "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" that earned her the title of Queen of 1970s pop and huge success in the 1970s. Helen Reddy recently passed away at the age of 78, but still had an amazing impact on the entertainment world and was loved by many who will celebrate and remember her life for years to come.

 

Rise to fame.

Helen Maxine Lamond Reddy was born on October 25, 1941, in Melbourne, Australia, into a show business family where she began performing while she was still just a child. At the age of 24, the single mother won a talent contest sponsored by "Bandstand," on an Australian pop-music television show. The prize included a trip to New York and a chance to audition for a recording contract with Mercury Recordings. Whilst she didn't get the recording contract, the feminist icon who was destined for stardom stayed in the United States and continued to fight for her dream as a popstar with little more than $200 USD to her name. Even after being rejected by at least 27 record labels, her and her new husband and manager, Jeff Wald, didn't give up and eventually signed with Capitol Records in 1970. Her first hit was in 1971, with a cover of "I Don't Know How to Love Him," from the award-winning stage show "Jesus Christ Superstar," that made it to No. 13 on the Billboard charts.

 

Helen Reddy performs with Dudley Moore at the 52nd Academy Awards in 1980. Picture: Getty Images
Helen Reddy performs with Dudley Moore at the 52nd Academy Awards in 1980. Picture: Getty Images

 

The song that changed the world.

It was a year later in 1972, that her whole life changed with the release of "I Am Woman." Reddy drew inspiration from the many years of being belittled and harassed by male executives and performers and wrote the feminist anthem that portrayed her strength and resonated with audiences worldwide who were in the midst of the women's liberation movement. It eventually made its way to the No.1 spot on both the Billboard and Australian charts. Whilst conservatives were unsettled by the empowering effect of "I Am Woman," others from around the world rejoiced and praised Reddy for her soon-to-be iconic track, earning her a Grammy award in 1973 for the Best Female Pop Vocals. She ruffled more feathers during her acceptance speech by saying, "I would like to thank God, because she makes everything possible." With six No. 1 singles in a row on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and 13 Top 40 singles, no woman sold more records than Reddy in the mid-1970s.

 

Success on stage and screen.

After dominating the music charts, she made her big-screen debut in the disaster movie "Airport 1975" where she starred as a guitar-playing nun that earned her a Golden Globe nomination. She later went on to star in the Disney movie "Pete's Dragon" in 1977, where she portrayed a sceptical New England lighthouse keeper.

 

Whilst the woman who was known for her restraint in both performance and appearance had no more significant hits after 1977, her last song to make it into the American charts was "I Can't Say Goodbye to You" in 1981. However, her music career didn't end there. She traded the Top 40 charts for the Broadway stage and replaced the lead in "Blood Brothers," a musical set in Liverpool, for a few months in 1995. Thus began her busy Broadway career, where she starred in productions of "Anything Goes," "Call Me Madam" and "Shirley Valentine" in England and the United States.

 

Retirement and comeback.

In 2002, Reddy retired and decided to get a degree in clinical hypnotherapy and practice as a therapist and motivational speaker. After making a public appearance in 2012, she announced a brief comeback, where she made several concert appearances in the United States and sang "I Am Woman" to 750,000 people on the Women's March on Washington in 2017, before retiring again.

 

Australian singer Helen Reddy has been hailed as a pioneer. Picture: Craig Greenhill
Australian singer Helen Reddy has been hailed as a pioneer. Picture: Craig Greenhill

Whilst she captivated the American audience, she also had a profound effect on artists in Australia, especially women, as she carved a path for those who were looking to find international success. She was the first Australian-born artist to win a Grammy and the first to make it into the Billboard Hottest 100 charts. This led to her being inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2006 and was only the fourth female soloist to receive that honour. In the new 2020 film, "I Am Woman," Reddy's story is brought to life by a team of Australian women, who have portrayed the powerful and inspiring life of Helen Reddy and helped introduce a whole new generation to the rallying cry of "I Am Woman".

 

Helen Reddy's legacy will forever live on and be remembered as the woman who helped others find their strength and believe they could face anything because they are invincible. She was the epitome of "I am woman, hear me roar" and her roar will be heard for generations to come.

 

Sources:

  • https://www.npr.org/2020/09/30/918651061/i-am-woman-singer-helen-reddy-is-dead-aged-78
  • https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/29/arts/music/helen-reddy-dead.html
  • https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/sep/30/helen-reddy-obituary
  • https://www.smh.com.au/culture/music/i-am-woman-director-leads-tributes-to-helen-reddy- 2020... -p560pd.html

 

By Natasha Mann