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HELEN REDDY,
1941-2020

Helen Reddy, the Australian singer whose 1972 hit “I Am Woman” made her a feminist icon, died Tuesday in Los Angeles. She was 78.

Her children Traci and Jordan announced 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.”

No cause was given. Reddy suffered for decades from Addison’s disease and was diagnosed in 2015 with dementia.

The daughter of two vaudeville performers, Reddy moved to the U.S. after winning a talent contest in Australia that resulted in her going to New York City in 1966 to audition for a deal.

Nothing came of it, but after moving to Los Angeles, she secured a single deal with Capitol Records. She recorded Mac Davis’ “I Believe in Music,” which went nowhere, but its B side, “I Don’t Know to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, made its way up the charts after a Canadian DJ flipped over the record and started playing it.

Her success led to album deal, and her debut, mostly of covers, included an early version of “I Am Woman,” which she co-wrote with Ray Burton.

Her second album did little business, but her third, 1972’s I Am Woman, brought her international fame. The title track went to #1 and the album spent 14 months in the Top 200, peaking at #14. The single won her the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

The next year she scored a second #1 with “Delta Dawn,” following that with the global smashes “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress),” “Angie Baby” and “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady.” Her final #1 was “I Can’t Hear You No More” in 1976.

Reddy released 14 albums between 1971 and 1983, recording sporadically thereafter.

Reddy also dabbled in film, TV and theater, hosting two editions of the variety show The Helen Reddy Show in 1973 and 1979, and The Midnight Special from 1973 through 1975. Her biggest film role was in Pete’s Dragon; she also appeared in Airport ’75, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and others.

She ventured into musical theater in the 1980s, appearing on Broadway and the West End in Blood Brothers. She toured the U.S. in the one-woman show Shirley Valentine in 1996.

She retired from performing in 2002, returned to Australia and earned a degree in clinical hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming. (Early in her L.A. days she studied psychology at UCLA.)

Reddy famously sang “I Am Woman” at the 2017 Women’s March in Los Angeles following the inauguration of Donald Trump.

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