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Helen Reddy (1941–2020), singer known for feminist anthem “I Am Woman”

by Linnea Crowther

Helen Reddy was an Australian singer whose hits included the 1972 chart-topping feminist anthem “I Am Woman.”

The queen of ‘70s pop

Reddy launched her international career with her 1971 version of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” It became popular in the U.S. and Canada, and when she followed it the next year with “I Am Woman,” she became a force to be reckoned with. She won a Grammy Award for “I Am Woman,” the lyrics of which she wrote thanks to “divine inspiration,” she said. The song went on to energize the women’s liberation movement, providing the anthem it needed and inspiring its followers to believe in their own strength. “I Am Woman” became the first song by an Australian artist to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Reddy was the first Australian artist to win a Grammy.

Reddy followed the success of “I Am Woman” with No. 1 hits “Delta Dawn” in 1973 and “Angie Baby” in 1974, and with other hit songs including “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress),” “You and Me Against the World,” and “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady.” Especially popular on adult contemporary radio, Reddy was later called by the Chicago Tribune “the queen of ‘70s pop.”

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Acting and other work

Reddy was a popular TV guest in the ‘70s, appearing on shows including “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Muppet Show,” and “The Midnight Special,” which she frequently hosted. She began acting with “Airport 1975,” playing a nun with a guitar who sings to calm a young girl. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Female for her performance. Reddy went on to star in “Pete’s Dragon” (1977), playing Nora, who takes in orphaned Pete. She had a cameo in “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and made guest appearances on shows including “The Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” and “The Jeffersons.” Reddy also had a stage acting career, including a Broadway role in “Blood Brothers.”

In later years, Reddy received a degree in clinical hypnotherapy and became a therapist. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Reddy supported Democratic candidates, and in 2017 she performed “I Am Woman” at the Los Angeles Women’s March. She wrote the 2006 memoir “The Woman I Am,” and in the same year, she was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame.

Reddy’s lyrics

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

Tributes to Helen Reddy

Full obituary: The New York Times

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