Australian singer and actress Helen Reddy passed away in the afternoon of September 29th 2020 in Los Angeles, age 78.
She was best known for her 1973 Grammy award winning song – I Am Woman – which made her an international superstar.
The song became the anthem of the second feminist movement that swept across the globe throughout the 70’s, and Reddy became the poster girl for the movement.
When asked what inspired the song in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in 2003, Reddy said:
“I couldn’t find any songs that said what I thought being woman was about. I thought about all these strong women in my family who had gotten through the Depression and world wars and drunken, abusive husbands. But there was nothing in music that reflected that. The only songs were ‘I Feel Pretty’ or that dreadful song ‘Born A Woman’. These are not exactly empowering lyrics. I certainly never thought of myself as a songwriter, but it came down to having to do it.
I remember lying in bed one night and the words, ‘I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman’, kept going over and over in my head. That part I consider to be divinely inspired. I had been chosen to get a message across.”
I Am Woman was the first number one hit on the Billboard chart by an Australian-born artist and the first Australian-penned song to win a Grammy Award. In her acceptance speech for Best Female Performance, Reddy thanked “God, because She makes everything possible”.
I Am Woman is not Reddy’s only hit single, in Australia she had Top 10 hits with ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him (From Jesus Christ Superstar)’, ‘Delta Dawn’, ‘Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)’ and ‘You’re My World’. In the US she had a total of 15 singles in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, Six of which made the Top 10 and three reached No. 1.
Reddy was diagnosed with dementia in 2015, and spent the past 5 years living in a Los Angeles Celebrity nursing home. Her children, Traci and Jordan, confirmed her death in a statement posted to Facebook;
“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.”