Australian singer Helen Reddy, best known for her 1972 feminist anthem “I Am Woman,” died Tuesday in Los Angeles at the age of 78.
Reddy’s children released a statement about their mother’s passing on her Facebook fan page. “It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved mother, Helen Reddy,” the post read. “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 Melbourne born performer came to the United States at 24-years-old and launched a decade long chart-topping run with 1971’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, followed by her smash hit “I Am Woman,” which became the anthem of the feminist movement and her first single to reach No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
After becoming involved with the women’s movement and not finding any songs to record that reflected her newfound positive self-view, she wrote one for herself.
“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,” Reddy said.
She won a Grammy for the song and famously thanked God in her speech, “because She makes everything possible.” Reddy had over a dozen Top 40 hits in the United States, including two more No. 1 singles, “Delta Dawn” and “Angie Baby.”
Reddy was also an accomplished actress, earning a Golden Globe nomination for the role of a nun in Airport 75, and had an Oscar-nominated song “Candle on the Water” from Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, which she starred in. She also made notable television guest appearances on The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and The Jeffersons.
The singer retired to Australia in 2002 and became a clinical hypnotherapist. In 2019, a biographical film was made about Reddy, titled I Am Woman.