News October 1, 2020

Tributes flow for Grammy winning singer & actor Helen Reddy

Tributes flow for Grammy winning singer & actor Helen Reddy
Facebook / Helen Reddy

Tributes have begun to flow for groundbreaking singer and actor after news broke of her death in Los Angeles.

The 78-year-old, born in Melbourne, had been battling dementia for the past four years.

Unjoo Moon, who directed and produced Reddy’s 2018 biopic I Am Woman, recalled: “When I first met Helen Reddy she told me that I would be in her life for many years. 

“What followed was an amazing seven-year friendship during which she entrusted me with telling her story in a film that celebrates her life, her talents and her amazing legacy. 

“I will forever be grateful to Helen for teaching me so much about being an artist, a woman and a mother. 

“She paved the way for so many and the lyrics that she wrote for ‘I am Woman’ changed my life forever like they have done for so many other people and will continue to do for generations to come. 

“She will always be a part of me and I will miss her enormously.”

Reddy’s children Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers, confirmed her death, saying: “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.”

The second Australian female to win a Grammy, and the first to top the US charts, she is best known for ‘I Am Woman’, the women’s rights anthem, which she co-wrote with Australian singer-songwriter Ray Burton. It was the first of her three US chart-toppers.

She followed up the song’s sentiment by famously telling the Grammy audience she wanted to thank God, “because She makes everything possible”.

Later she discussed the song saying: “I think it came along at the right time.

“I’d gotten involved in the Women’s Movement, and there were a lot of songs on the radio about being weak and being dainty and all those sort of things. 

“All the women in my family, they were strong women. They worked. 

“They lived through the Depression and a world war, and they were just strong women. 

“I certainly didn’t see myself as being dainty.”

Hits that followed including ‘Delta Dawn’, ‘Angie Baby’, ‘Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)’ and ‘Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady’ made her the world’s top-selling female singer in 1973 and 1974.

She placed 25 songs in the US Adult Contemporary charts alone, 15 of these in the Top 10 and eight reaching #1.

She was the first Australian to host a one-hour weekly primetime variety show on an American network, and subsequent TV specials were screened in 40 countries.

The success came after a long struggle for recognition for the child performer.

In 1966 she won Australian TV show Bandstand, the prize for which was purportedly a trip to New York and a record deal with Mercury Records.

She arrived to be told by Mercury the prize was just an audition – and that the audition was her Bandstand performance.

Despite having only US$200 (equivalent to $1,576 in 2019) and a return ticket to Australia, the single mother decided to stay on in the US and work on her career.

It included acting in movies such as Walt Disney’s Pete’s Dragon and Airport 75, and musicals.

In 2002, she returned to Australia and gained a university degree,  later practicing as a clinical hypnotherapist and motivational speaker.

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