Helen Reddy Dies at 78; Sang ‘I Am Woman’

The Four Percent

Helen Reddy, the Australian-born singer whose 1972 hit song “I Am Woman” became the feminist anthem of the decade and propelled her to international pop-music stardom, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. She was 78.

The death was confirmed by her children in a message posted on her official fan page on Facebook. Ms. Reddy lived for decades with Addison’s disease (she had a kidney removed when she was 17) and had dementia from at least 2015.

“I Am Woman” reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart at the end of 1972 (a good six months after it was released — individual call-in requests helped build radio play) and earned her the Grammy Award for best female pop vocal performance. She was the first Australian-born artist to win a Grammy and the first to make the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Some male observers called the song — beginning with the words “I am woman/ Hear me roar/ In numbers too big to ignore,” sung by a 5-foot-3 soprano — angry, man-hating, dangerous or all three.

At 12, she rebelled by quitting show business and going to live with an aunt while her parents toured. But her financial situation — after an early marriage, parenthood and divorce — persuaded her to return.

Ms. Reddy’s first hit was a 1971 cover of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” from the award-winning stage show “Jesus Christ Superstar.” “I Am Woman,” with Ms. Reddy’s lyrics and Ray Burton’s music, came a year later.

After a cameo in the film version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1978), starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, it was on to guest spots in prime-time television on “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island.”

By the 1980s, Ms. Reddy’s glory days were largely behind her, and she was bored. “I remember the Vegas days when it was two shows a night, seven nights a week,” she told The Chicago Tribune in 2013, “and it became so rote that I’d be thinking about wallpaper while I was singing.”

Survivors include her two children, Traci Wald Donat, a daughter from her first marriage, and Jordan Sommers, a son from her second; her half sister, Toni Lamond, an Australian singer and actress; and one grandchild.

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