National Post (Latest Edition)

Everyone heard Australian singer roar

1972 hit became anthem for global feminists


Helen Reddy, who has died aged 78, was a singer and songwriter whose song I Am Woman became a rallying cry for the nascent feminist movement; she won a Grammy Award for best female artist in 1973.

Looking for songs that reflected her increasing­ly positive self- image, she found none, and said. “I realized I was going to have to write it.”

Helen Maxine Reddy was born in Melbourne, Australia on Oct. 25, 1941.

After a brief early marriage that left her a single mother, she returned to singing. In 1966, newly arrived in New York with her three- year- old and $ 200, Reddy tried to forge a career. In 1968, when she was down to her last few dollars, an Australian friend threw her a $5-a-head party.

There she met Jeff Wald, a secretary at the William Morris talent agency, and they were married in short order. But he was soon sacked, and for a while she supported them playing gigs; at one point they had to do a moonlight flit, their few possession­s in paper bags.

They moved to Los Angeles, where Wald began managing acts as diverse as Tiny Tim and Deep Purple.

After 18 months, Capitol agreed to do one single. I Believe in Music was a flop until DJS began playing the B- side, a cover of I Don’t Know How to Love Him from Jesus Christ Superstar. In June 1971 it peaked at No. 13 on the U. S. charts.

A couple of unsuccessf­ul singles followed. And then, “I remember lying in bed one night,” Reddy said, “and the words, ‘I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman,’ kept going over and over in my head. That I consider divinely inspired.”

By the end of 1972 I Am Woman was No. 1, making her the first Australian to top the U.S. hit parade.

The next five years saw more than a dozen Top 40 hits, including No. 1s Delta Dawn and Angie Baby. She was the world’s top- selling female vocalist in 1973 and 1974.

She also acted in film and TV. In the 1980s she began establishi­ng herself in the theatre, mainly in musicals.

In 2017 she sang I Am Woman at the 750,000- strong Women’s March in Los Angeles.

Reddy’s son and daughter survive her.

 ??  ?? Helen Reddy
Helen Reddy

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