‘A pioneer for Aussie artists’: Helen reddy remembered

 

Music guru Molly Meldrum has hailed the late Australian musician Helen Reddy as a pioneer who helped open the door for other great Aussie female voices.

Reddy passed away in Los Angeles aged 78, after battling dementia for several years.

Born in Melbourne, Reddy was the first Australian-born musician to score an American No. 1 when her feminist anthem I Am Woman topped the US chart in 1972.

She was also the first Australian artist to win a Grammy.

 

Australian singer Helen Reddy has been hailed as a pioneer. Picture: Craig Greenhill
Australian singer Helen Reddy has been hailed as a pioneer. Picture: Craig Greenhill

 

"Helen really paved the way for Australian artists to make it in America," Meldrum told News Corp Australia.

"She opened the doors for Olivia Newton-John, she encouraged her to move to America too and that's when her career really took off, I know Olivia was always so grateful for what Helen did for her.

Molly Meldrum says Helen Reddy opened the door for Aussie artists in the US. Picture: Josie Hayden
Molly Meldrum says Helen Reddy opened the door for Aussie artists in the US. Picture: Josie Hayden

"However whenever you would bring up her success with Helen, she was so modest she'd change the subject and try to talk about something else. Helen was someone who would help people, there's so many things she did behind the scenes. But she will be remembered as a pioneer, as well as a kind person."

Helen Reddy performs with Dudley Moore at the 52nd Academy Awards in 1980. Picture: Getty Images
Helen Reddy performs with Dudley Moore at the 52nd Academy Awards in 1980. Picture: Getty Images

I Am Woman, which Reddy wrote with Australian musician Ray Burton, became her first American No. 1 single and sold over one million copies. She followed it with two more US chart toppers - Delta Dawn in 1973 and Angie Baby in 1974.

 

Her children Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers said Reddy 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."

I Am Woman was co-written with Australian musician Ray Burton, who has often been airbrushed out of the song's history.

"This news comes as a huge shock. My sincere condolences to Helen's family," Burton said.

 

Helen Reddy with former husband Jeff Wald, who was her manager, and their son Jordan Sommers. Picture: Ron Galella via Getty Images
Helen Reddy with former husband Jeff Wald, who was her manager, and their son Jordan Sommers. Picture: Ron Galella via Getty Images

 

Reddy’s I Am Woman became a feminist anthem. Picture: Ron Galella via Getty Images
Reddy’s I Am Woman became a feminist anthem. Picture: Ron Galella via Getty Images

I Am Woman continues to be influential, as well as being sung by Vanessa Amorosi at Reddy's ARIA Hall of Fame induction in 2006, newcomer Mia Wray covered the song for The State of Music this year. The song inspired this year's biopic, I Am Woman, starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey.

 

I Am Woman director Unjoo Moon with Helen Reddy. Picture: Unjoo Moon/Twitter
I Am Woman director Unjoo Moon with Helen Reddy. Picture: Unjoo Moon/Twitter

 

The film was released in Australia in August and the US and Canada this month. Reddy's granddaughter Lily Donat also performed on the soundtrack.

Reddy had met with writer and director Unjoo Moon who entrusted her to make the story of her life.

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

"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."

 

Singer Helen Reddy has passed away. Picture: Supplied
Singer Helen Reddy has passed away. Picture: Supplied

 

 

Helen Reddy in Adelaide in 1975. Picture: Supplied
Helen Reddy in Adelaide in 1975. Picture: Supplied

 

Music writer Jeff Jenkins said Reddy is one of Melbourne's top musical exports.

"Four names are at the top of the list - Olivia Newton-John, The Seekers, Kylie Minogue and Helen Reddy," Jenkins said.

"Helen's remarkable journey started in a two-bedroom flat on Riversdale Road in Hawthorn and ended up on top of the American charts. She had an amazing career and led an amazing life. I'll never forget her acceptance speech when she was finally inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2006: 'I think there is nothing more glorious than being a musician. What other job do you go to work and your boss says, Play!' 

"Helen Reddy was a trailblazer who literally helped change the world."

Reddy retired from touring a decade ago, but in 2017 she appeared in Los Angeles at the Women's March, where she sang I Am Woman and was introduced by Jamie Lee Curtis.

The singer is believed to have been living at the Motion Picture and Television Fund's Samuel Goldwyn Center in LA.

Tributes have poured in from around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Helen Reddy 'a pioneer for Aussie artists'


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