Helen Reddy

  • Singer born in 1941 from Melbourne Australia. Died in 2020 of dementia and Addison’s disease.
  • Her parents were entertainers, and she joined them on the Australian vaudeville circuit when she was 4, singing and dancing. Her parents wanted her to be a performer as a career, but she wanted to be a housewife and mother. She married, had a daughter, and then divorced. To support herself, she resumed singing.
  • She won a talent contest on a TV show, and her prize was a trip to New York to cut a single for Mercury Records. When she arrived in 1966, she was informed that her prize was a chance to audition, not to cut a single. The record company reviewed the tape of her contest performance, and deemed her unworthy. Rather than return to Australia, she decided to stay in New York with her daughter to pursue a singing career.
  • She sang in tiny clubs for a while, in front of tiny audiences. She didn’t have a work permit, so performing in the U.S. was difficult. She took several trips to Canada to perform – as Australia and Canada were both part of the Commonwealth, she did not need a work permit there. In the spring of 1968, a friend in New York threw a party for Reddy, with a $5 price of admission, to help her pay rent. She met her future manager at the party, immediately fell in love, and married him 3 days later. They left for Chicago, where her husband found work as a talent coordinator, and Reddy sang at local lounges. She landed a deal with a record label, and recorded her first single in 1968 – One Way Ticket. The single charted in Australia, but no where else.
  • The family moved to Los Angeles, where her husband/manager started managing other music acts, but neglected Reddy’s. By 1971, Reddy demanded that she be given a chance. He got Capitol Records to agree to let her record one single. She released I Believe In Magic, which did not do well, but the flip side of the single, I Don’t Know How To Love Him from the hit musical Jesus Christ Superstar started to be played by DJs, and it became it hit, reaching #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  • Three albums were released in 1971 and 1972. The third was the game changer – I Am Woman became her only platinum studio album. It contained her first #1 hit – the self titled I Am Woman. The song actually was on her first album – she recorded it again and re-released it. When it was first released, it did not sell well, and it quickly fell off the charts. However, when she started singing it on TV talk shows and variety shows, women across America began to request it from local DJs. It re-entered the charts, and slowly climbed, eventually hitting #1 in late 1972. It became an anthem for women’s liberation. And, it won Reddy a Grammy Award, for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
  • Between 1973 and 1977, Reddy had 12 singles in the Top 40, with 2 reaching #1 – Delta Dawn and Angie Baby. Six studio albums were released over this period. Five more albums were released from 1978 to 1983. Then, she turned to a career in musical theater – from 1985 through 1997, she performed in 6 stage roles, including Blood Brothers, where she performed both on Broadway and at West End in London.
  • She also had a summer variety show on TV in 1973, The Helen Reddy Show. She had a starring role in the 1977 Disney film Pete’s Dragon.
  • She retired from performing in 2002, and other than some occasional concerts in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, she remains happy to be retired.
  • Reddy was the voice of the feminist movement in the early 70s. Watch her performance of I Am Woman, on the TV show Midnight Special from 1973.

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