‘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.
"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.
"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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
Honor of my life. Introducing Helen at the Women’s March, January 2017! THANK YOU Helen. RIP— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) September 30, 2020
Read the lyrics. Song she wrote and performed to great acclaim. HELEN REDDY "I AM WOMAN" Women's March LA 2017 https://t.co/13eRaYvJ5i via @YouTube
What a legend. What a life. Thank you, diva. We owe you. https://t.co/Wa40YyegDZ— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) September 30, 2020
"So sad to hear of the passing of Helen Reddy. As a teenager I’d mime to ‘I Am Woman’, and dream of a future that was only afforded me because of the hard work done by other women inspired by the sentiments of that song. What a woman." - Amanda Keller. pic.twitter.com/hsATLqIltT— Jonesy & Amanda (@JonesyandAmanda) September 30, 2020
Vale #HelenReddy. Your roar will be forever heard!— NFSA -National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (@NFSAonline) September 30, 2020
Her timeless anthem I Am Woman is part of the Sounds of Australia registry, as one of the recordings that has helped shape Australian culture.https://t.co/1mmEyoY3jt pic.twitter.com/DItuMhVt5d
Originally published as Helen Reddy 'a pioneer for Aussie artists'