The #1 Grammy-winning “I Am Woman” became not only THE anthem of the feminist movement during the radical 1970s, but also the signature song for its lovely, crop-haired, reddish-haired composer and singer Helen Reddy. Three decades later this is the hit people still remember her for, despite the fact she had a host of other “top ten” records over the course of her long career.
Helen Maxine Lamond Reddy was born in Melbourne, Australia, to showbiz parents, comedy actor/producer/writer Max Reddy and singer/soap opera actress Stella Lamond, and is the half sister to singer/actress Toni Lamond.
Of English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry, Helen began performing at the age of four at the Tivoli Theatre in Perth, Australia, touring much of her native country with her parents. She left boarding school at age 15 to work on the road singing and acting. Her musical style is best described as a light amalgam of rhythm and blues, easy rock and jazz. Her soothing, quivery vocals and equally warm appeal was instantly embraced, eventually earning her own Australian radio show. “Helen Reddy Sings” aired twice weekly on the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
In 1966 Helen won a trip to New York in an Australian Bandstand International contest and, though she met with little success during this excursion, did meet and marry second husband Jeff Wald, a manager and an agent with the William Morris talent agency. They married the following year and went to Los Angeles. Helen converted to Judaism before the marriage.
Wald worked Helen into a few performances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), fifteen appearances total, and the resulting attention earned her her first hit with a top version of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from the Broadway rock musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” in February 1972, peaking at #13 on the Billboard hit list. Signed by Capitol Records, she enjoyed hit after hit throughout the early 1970s, with “Delta Dawn” (1973) and “Angie Baby” (1974) reaching #1.
In 1973, Helen had her own summer-replacement variety show and was a popular hostess for a time on NBC’s late-night variety show The Midnight Special (1972). She tried to parlay her singing success into a film career starting with a featured role as a nun in the disaster film Airport 1975 (1974). This led to a wholesome starring role in the promising Disney children’s film Pete’s Dragon (1977), but it was only mildly received. . During this time, she also appeared on TV in episodes of “The Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” “The Jeffersons” (as herself), “Beast Master,” “Diagnosis Murder” and a guest voice on “Family Guy.” She appeared in only two more films — a cameo in the raucous “Fat Boys” comedy Disorderlies (1987) and a featured role in the comedy crime chiller The Perfect Host (2010). A third film, a comedy “mockumentary” entitled Senior Entourage, has yet been released.
In 1982, she divorced Wald and married a third time the following year to drummer Milton Ruth. Helen has ventured on into the concert and symphony orchestra forums as well as becoming a popular cabaret and nightclub attraction. In recent years she has graced a number of musical theater productions both on Broadway and in London’s West End.
Over the years she has been considered a primary interpreter of English playwright Willy Russell, having appeared in four productions of his one-woman show “Shirley Valentine.” Other live musical productions have included “Anything Goes,” “Call Me Madam,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and Russell’s “Blood Brothers”, in which she made her Broadway debut.
In 2002 she retired from the business and moved to her native Australia to work as a practicing hypnotherapist and motivational speaker, but returned from time to time before the camera both here and abroad. In 2017, Helen was diagnosed with dementia and is now residing at the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s Samuel Goldwyn Center for Behavioral Health in Woodland Hills, California.
- October, 25, 1941
- Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
- September, 29, 2020
- Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
- suffered from dementia