On the 29th of September, Helen Reddy, the ‘I Am Woman’ singer and feminist icon, died at the age of 78. The Australian-American singer, songwriter, and activist was one of the best selling artists of the early 1970s. Her 1972 hit ‘I Am Woman’ peaked at no. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1972, instantly making her a household name. It also earned her a Grammy for Best Female Pop Performance. Her acceptance speech was short and crisp. “I would like to thank God, because she makes everything possible”, a statement reminiscent of who she was as an individual and an artist. In other words, she flipped the narrative and thanked a female power for her achievements.
The early 1970s, achieving pop stardom and a feminist approach
Helen Reddy was born in a family of vaudevillians and was destined for the stage. Success, however, was slow to come. Her early years in the States were spent performing to small crowds and living on tight resources. In 1968, she signed with Fontana Records and her single “One Way Ticket” made a chart appearance. Reddy’s success reached its peak in the early 70s due to a series of hits. Her songs ‘I Am Woman’ and ‘Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady’ earned her Grammy nominations as well. Reddy’s other hits include ‘Angie Baby’, ‘Delta Dawn’ and ‘Leave me alone’, two of which peaked at 1 on Billboard charts. ‘Candle on the Water’, her song from Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, also earned her an Academy Award nomination.
While she has an array of chart-toppers in her repertoire, she is most known for ‘I am Woman’. She co-wrote the track and named the women’s movement and second-wave feminism as inspirations for the same. While the initial response to the release was lukewarm, it picked up momentum in a few months. It then re-entered the charts and gained the reputation of being the feminist anthem of the 70s. “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.”– the track reminds the listener, time and time again. At the time, the song was considered to be outlandish by many due to its straightforward and feminist lyrics. The women’s liberation movement adopted the track as an anthem and she became a feminist icon to the public.
Television, memoir, and recent biopic
Reddy was a frequent guest on many talk shows and occasionally hosted the late-night show “The Midnight Special”. She also hosted “The Helen Reddy Show” on NBC from 1975-76. She even received a Golden Globe nomination for her part in the movie “Airport 1975”. The ’80s saw her take up a career in theatre. Ultimately, she announced her retirement in 2002. A few years later, her memoir, “The Woman I Am” was published in 2006, in which she wrote about the ins and outs of a career in showbiz and her belief in psychic phenomena and rebirth.
In 2019, a biopic named “I Am Woman” on Reddy’s life was released. It had its world premiere in September 2019 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film followed Reddy’s life and rise to stardom in the early 70s and was specially screened for her and her family.
A year later, the world came to know that Helen Reddy, the renowned “I Am A Woman” singer had died at the age of 78. Her children announced that she had passed away via a Facebook message and stated that she was “a truly formidable woman” whose “voice will live on forever”.
Helen Reddy’s Grammy acceptance speech – here.