Helen Reddy (October 25, 1941 – September 29, 2020) was an Australian-American singer, songwriter, author, actress, and activist. She was born in Melbourne, Victoria, to a show-business family, Reddy started her career as an entertainer at age four. She sang on radio and television and won a talent contest on the television program, Bandstand in 1966; her prize was a ticket to New York City and a record audition, which was unsuccessful.
Helen Reddy pursued her international singing career by moving to Chicago, and then on to Los Angeles, where she made her debut singles “One Way Ticket” in 1968 and “I Believe in Music” in 1970. The B-side of “I Believe in Music”, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”, reached number 8 on the pop chart of Canadian magazine RPM, and she was signed to Capitol Records a year later.
During the 1970s, Helen Reddy enjoyed international success, and had 15 singles on the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Six made the top 10 and three reached number one, including her signature hit “I Am Woman”.
Helen Reddy’s stardom was solidified when her single “I Am Woman” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1972. The song was co-written by Helen Reddy with Ray Burton, and she attributed the impetus for writing “I Am Woman” and her early awareness of the women’s movement to expatriate Australian rock critic and pioneer feminist Lillian Roxon. “I Am Woman” was recorded and released in May 1972, but barely dented the charts in its initial release. However, female listeners soon adopted the song as an anthem and began requesting it from their local radio stations in droves, resulting in its September chart re-entry and eventual number-one peak. “I Am Woman” earned Reddy a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and made her the first Australian singer to top the U.S. charts
At the inaugural American Music Awards, in 1974, she won the award for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist. On television, she was the first Australian to host a one-hour weekly primetime variety show on an US network, along with specials that were seen in more than 40 countries.
Between the 1980s and 1990s, as her single “I Can’t Say Goodbye to You” became her last to chart in the US, Hlen Reddy acted in musicals and recorded albums such as “Center Stage” before retiring from live performance in 2002.
She returned to university in Australia, earned a degree, and practised as a clinical hypnotherapist and motivational speaker.
In 2011, Helen Reddy decided to return to live performing.
Helen Reddy’s song “I Am Woman” played a huge role in popular culture, becoming an anthem for a second-wave of feminism, and she came to be known as a “feminist poster girl” and a “feminist icon”.
In 2011, Billboard named her the number-28 adult contemporary artist of all time (number-9 woman), and in 2013, the Chicago Tribune called her the “Queen of ’70s Pop”.
Helen Reddy died in Los Angeles on September 29, 2020, aged 78. She had suffered from Addison’s disease and dementia in her later years, but no cause of death was announced.
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