Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Name: Helen Reddy
Birthdate: October 25, 1941
Famous Years: 1966-1980
Currently Known For: Retired Singer, Activist
|Networth: $3 Million||Famous For: I Am Woman, Delta Dawn, Angie Baby|
October 25, 1941
Retired Singer, Activist
I Am Woman, Delta Dawn, Angie Baby
If there was ever an anthem for feminism that’s had lasting power, it certainly has to be “I Am Woman”. A lot of younger people are aware of the song and know the words, but might not know who actually sang the hit tune. That would be Helen Reddy, and “I Am Woman” was far from her only hit. In fact, she was one of the biggest musical acts of the 1970s, and although it’s been decades since she’s produced another hit, Reddy remains one of the icons in the feminist movement.
Reddy was born on October 25, 1941 in Melbourne, Australia to a family that had already found fame in her home country while she was growing up. Her mother Stella had been an actress, while her father was primarily known as a writer. Even her grandparents would get into the act before she was born. Reddy’s father would be enlisted in the Australian Army when she was born as World War II was still unfolding, and when he returned, had his daughter join him in a traveling vaudeville show throughout much of her youth.
Reddy’s parents wanted her to be a big star, but as she got to her teenage years, Reddy wasn’t, well...ready for that. Instead, Reddy wanted to play the role of a housewife, and settled down at an early age where she had a child, though her first marriage would be a short lived one. Following the divorce, Reddy was finally willing to get back into the entertainment world, and it didn’t take long for her to find her groove once again.
Part of Reddy’s return to music would come from the Australian show “Bandstand” that formed a talent competition, and Reddy would win a trip to New York City with the chance to sign with a record label. Unfortunately, Mercury Records was interested in signing the young singer at the time, but that didn’t stop Reddy from chasing her dream. So with that, she decided to stay in the United States, and at a party had met Jeff Wald. The two quickly became a couple, and eventually married as Wald acted as her manager.
“I always believed that I could make it or I would never have spent so many years trying to get (to the United States),” Reddy said about her decision to stay. “There were periods of doubt, no question about it...And I thought, ‘What am I getting into?’ It took me a year to really learn the American lingo.”
It was a rough start as Reddy was attempting to find fame as a singer, and her break would come when she had her first single on a label in 1968 with “One Way Ticket”. It wouldn’t chart in the United States, but reached the top 100 in Australia. Reddy and Wald then headed west to Los Angeles, where he started to manage successful musical acts, and turned his attention to promoting Reddy’s career and was able to get her a single with Capitol Records. The song, “I Believe in Music”, would end up being a hit.
With that, Reddy’s career in the 1970s would get off to a much hotter start than the late 1960s. In late 1972, she released the song “I Am Woman”, which didn’t really resonate with audiences at first. Then, it started to gather steam as the feminist movement picked up the song, and it started to get more airtime. Eventually, “I Am Woman” would reach the top spot on the United States charts, and number two in her native Australia.
Reddy would really be in the spotlight at this point, and the next few years would prove to be very fruitful. She released hits such as “Delta Dawn” and “Angie Baby” that would reach number one, as well as “Leave Me Alone”, “You and Me Against the World” and “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady” that would reach the top 10. All of these hits solidified Reddy as one of the biggest stars of the 1970s, though the fame wouldn’t translate into the next decade. She reached number 60 on the charts with “Make Love to Me” in 1979 and “I Can’t Say Goodbye to You” at number 88 in 1981, but those would be her final top 100 songs.
Reddy released just two albums in the 1980s, and then released “Feel So Young” in 1990, as well as “Center Stage” in 1998 and a Christmas album in 2000. It’s been 20 years since she released a single, leaving the music business as she felt that her divorce from Wald had her blacklisted by promoters. She took to the stage instead, and acted throughout the 1980s and 1990s on Broadway, and formally retired from performing in 2002. There have been many that asked her to come back, but she stated that she enjoyed retirement and has only performed a couple of times in the past 16 years.
Now 76 years old, Reddy is still retired, and her most famous song is still being used in pro-feminist groups around the world. It was also announced that her life story would be brought to the screen, with an upcoming biopic film that details her rise to stardom, and eventual retirement. Reddy doesn’t mind that the spotlight isn’t shining on her anymore, either, saying that “I’m a very private person, and when I leave the stage, I leave the stage. It’s like whatever character you want to ask for an autograph, she isn’t here right now. She only exists on stage. The character that is off the stage is somebody else.”