Helen Reddy, Singer Behind ‘I Am Woman,’ Dies at 78

By | September 30, 2020
Helen Reddy, Singer Behind ‘I Am Woman,’ Dies at 78

Helen Reddy, Singer Behind ‘I Am Lady,’ Dies at 78

Helen Reddy, the Australian-born singer whose 1972 hit tune “I Am Lady” turned the feminist anthem of the last decade and propelled her to worldwide pop-music stardom, died Tuesday in Los Angeles. She was 78.

The demise was confirmed by her youngsters in a message posted on her official fan web page on Fb. Ms. Reddy suffered for many years from Addison’s illness (she had a kidney eliminated when she was 17) and, since at the least 2015, from dementia.

“I Am Lady” reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts on the finish of 1972 (an excellent six months after it was launched — particular person call-in requests helped construct radio play) and earned her the Grammy Award for finest feminine pop vocal efficiency. She was the primary Australian-born artist to win a Grammy and the primary to make the Billboard 100 file charts.

Some male observers known as the tune — starting with the phrases “I’m lady/ Hear me roar/ In numbers/ Too huge to disregard,” sung by a 5-foot-3 soprano — offended, man-hating, harmful or all three.

“That merely underlined the various issues ladies wanted liberating from,” a author for Selection mirrored in 2019. “No person known as Sinatra a menace when he sang ‘My Method,’ a no much less easy hymn to self-determination.”

Through the Seventies, three of Ms. Reddy’s songs — together with “Delta Daybreak” and “Angie Child” — went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Three others — “You and Me In opposition to the World,” “Go away Me Alone (Ruby Crimson Gown)” and “Ain’t No Solution to Deal with a Girl” — made the Prime 10. Greater than three a long time later, The Chicago Tribune declared her the “queen of ’70s pop.”

Helen Maxine Lamond Reddy was born on Oct. 25, 1941, in Melbourne, Australia, the one little one of Max Reddy, a author, producer and actor; and Stella (Lamond) Reddy, an actress whose stage identify was Stella Campbell. Her father was in New Guinea, serving within the Australian Military, when she was born. The Reddys carried out on the Australian vaudeville circuit, and Helen started becoming a member of them onstage when she was 4.

At 12, she rebelled by quitting present enterprise and going to reside with an aunt whereas her mother and father toured. However her monetary state of affairs — after an early marriage, parenthood and divorce — persuaded her to return.

Ms. Reddy had a stable popularity in Australian tv and radio when she received a 1966 expertise contest sponsored by “Bandstand,” a Sydney pop-music tv present. The prize was a visit to New York Metropolis and a record-company audition there. The audition didn’t pan out, and her profession received off to a sluggish, discouraging begin. Earlier than Capitol Information signed her in 1970, at the least 27 file labels rejected her, and he or she and her new husband, Jeff Wald, who was now her supervisor, moved — first to Chicago, then to Los Angeles.

Occasions have been laborious, particularly when the couple lived in New York. In “The Lady I Am: A Memoir” (2006), she wrote, “After we did eat, it was spaghetti, and we spent what little cash we had on cockroach spray.”

Ms. Reddy’s first hit was a 1971 cowl of “I Don’t Know Love Him,” successful from the award-winning stage present “Jesus Christ Famous person.” The success of “I Am Lady,” with Ms. Reddy’s lyrics and Ray Burton’s music, got here a yr later.

She was a frequent visitor within the early ’70s on selection, music and discuss exhibits like “The Mike Douglas Present,” “The Carol Burnett Present,” “The David Frost Present,” “The Merv Griffin Present” and “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” “The Helen Reddy Present” (1973) was an eight-episode summer time alternative collection on NBC.

She made her big-screen debut within the catastrophe film “Airport 1975” (launched in 1974) as a guitar-playing nun who comforts a sick little woman (Linda Blair) on an virtually definitely doomed 747. Ms. Reddy all the time appreciated to level out that Gloria Swanson and Myrna Loy have been additionally within the forged.

That was adopted by a starring function within the Disney film “Pete’s Dragon” (1977), as a skeptical New England lighthouse keeper who doubts an orphaned boy’s tales about his animated fire-breathing pet.

After a cameo in Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees’ movie model of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Membership Band” (1978), it was on to visitor spots on “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island.”

By the Eighties, her glory days have been largely previously, and he or she was bored. “I bear in mind the Vegas days when it was two exhibits an evening, seven nights every week,” she advised The Chicago Tribune in 2013, “and it turned so rote that I’d be occupied with wallpaper whereas I used to be singing.”

Ms. Reddy’s Broadway profession consisted of changing the lead in “Blood Brothers,” a musical set in Liverpool, for just a few months in 1995. However she had a busy stage profession elsewhere, starring in productions of “Something Goes,” “Name Me Madam” and “Shirley Valentine” in England and in the US, from Provincetown to Sacramento.

The final Helen Reddy tune to make the American charts was “I Can’t Say Goodbye to You” (1981), and “Creativeness” (1983) was her final album. Her last display screen look was in “The Excellent Host” (2010), a criminal offense comedy with David Hyde Pierce.

When Ms. Reddy retired in 2002, she meant enterprise, going again to highschool, getting a level in medical hypnotherapy and practising as a therapist and motivational speaker. In 2012, after a public look at her half sister’s party, she introduced a present enterprise comeback and made a number of live performance appearances in the US earlier than retiring once more.

She was a robust believer in past-lives regression. (In 1969, as a newcomer in Los Angeles, she studied parapsychology half time at U.C.L.A.) In her 2006 memoir, in a barely surreal part on British royalty, she declared that the Duchess of Windsor had been the reincarnation of Richard III and that Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret had been, in previous lives, the little princes Richard had as soon as locked within the Tower of London.

Ms. Reddy married and divorced thrice. In 1961, she married Kenneth Claude Weate, an older musician who was a household pal. That they had a daughter and divorced in 1966. In 1968, she married Mr. Wald, and so they had a son. They separated in 1981, when he checked right into a therapy facility for cocaine habit, and divorced two years later. That very same yr, she married Milton Ruth, a drummer in her band. They divorced in 1995.

Survivors embrace her two youngsters, Traci Wald Donat, a daughter from her first marriage, Jordan Sommers, a son from her second, her half sister, Toni Lamond, an Australian singer-actress, and one grandchild.

A feature-film biography about Ms. Reddy, “I Am Lady,” had its premiere on the Toronto Worldwide Movie Competition in 2019. The Hollywood Reporter known as it “entertaining and sharply packaged,” with a “breakout efficiency” by Tilda Cobham-Hervey.

In a 2013 interview, Ms. Reddy appeared philosophical. “I’m on the age the place I can simply chill and say what a beautiful life I’ve had,” she advised The Sydney Morning Herald. And he or she laughed when one very acquainted query got here up: whether or not she was nervous the primary time she went onstage.

“I don’t bear in mind the primary time I went onstage,” she mentioned.

Azi Paybarah contributed reporting.

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