Helen Reddy, the Australian singer whose global hit “I Am Woman” became a feminist anthem and who was the subject of a 2019 biopic of the same title, died today in Los Angeles. She was 78.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved mother, Helen Reddy, on the afternoon of September 29th 2020 in Los Angeles,” her children Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers said in a statement. “She was a wonderful Mother, Grandmother and a truly formidable woman. Our hearts are broken. But we take comfort in the knowledge that her voice will live on forever.”
Born on October 25, 1941, in Melbourne; Reddy came from a showbiz family and made her debut onstage at age 4. She first hit the U.S. charts in 1971 with “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” Mary Magdalene’s big song from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. About 16 months and a couple of minor hits later, she hit No. 1 in the U.S. and Canada with “I Am Woman,” a pro-feminism song she co-wrote with Ray Burton. It propelled her to international stardom and became an unofficial anthem of the women’s rights movement of the 1970s.
The song was earned Reddy a Grammy for Best Female Vocal and was featured in the 1972 film Stand Up and Be Counted, starring Stella Stevens. Sample lyric: “I am woman, hear me roar / In numbers too big to ignore / And I know too much to go back and pretend / ‘Cause I’ve heard it all before / And I’ve been down there on the floor / No one’s ever gonna keep me down again.”
“I Am Woman” was the first of three chart-topping singles is the U.S. for Reddy; she followed suit with the big-chorus smash “Delta Dawn” in 1973 and the haunting “Angie Baby” a year later. Other hits for the woman who ranks 18th on Billboard’s list of most successful singles acts of the 1970s included “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress),” “You and Me Against the World” and “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady,” all of which made the U.S. Top 10. “Keep on Singing,” “Peaceful,” “Somewhere in the Night” and “You’re My World” reached the Top 20.
Reddy also had big success on the album charts, scoring eight gold or platinum LPs from 1971-76 — all for Capitol Records. Her biggest was Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits (1975), which has gone on to sell more than 2 million copies in the U.S.
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