Helen Reddy (born October 25, 1941 in Melbourne, Australia) is a pop singer and actress. Reddy was immensely successful as a singer in the 1970s with numerous hit records including three U.S. #1 singles. She has sold more than 15 million albums and 10 million singles, and was the first Australian-born performer to win a Grammy award. In 1974, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Reddy was born into a well-known Australian show business family—her parents, well-known performers on the Australian vaudeville circuit, were actress and singer Stella Lamond and writer-actor-comedian Max Reddy; her older sister is actress-singer Toni Lamond; and her nephew is actor-singer Tony Sheldon.
Reddy began performing on stage with her parents at four years of age. In her late teens she was briefly married an older musician, with whom she had a daughter, Traci, but they divorced soon afterwards. After beginning her career in radio and television in Australia, she won a talent contest on the Australian pop music TV show Bandstand which enabled her to move to the United States in 1966. Settling initially in New York, she met Jeff Wald, then an agent with the William Morris Agency; the couple began living together four days later and she and Wald (who became her manager) subsequently married.
After a stint in Chicago, the family moved to Los Angeles, California where Reddy tried to established herself as a recording artist. Twenty-seven labels rejected her before she was finally signed to a contract with Capitol Records in 1970.Alongside her friend (and fellow Australian expatriate) Olivia Newton-John, Reddy became one of the most successful female recording artists of the Seventies, with fourteen U.S. Top 40 singles between 1971 and 1978. Reddy was also instrumental in furthering Newton-John's career—she encouraged her friend to move from Britain to the United States in the early 1970s, and Newton-John won the starring role of "Sandy" in the hit film version of the musical Grease after a chance meeting with the film's producer Allan Carr at a party at Reddy's house.
Reddy's first Top 40 U.S. hit (1971) was a cover of "I Don't Know How To Love Him" (from Jesus Christ Superstar. She scored an international hit in 1972 with a re-recorded version of a song she co-wrote with Australian musician Ray Burton, the feminist anthem "I Am Woman", which became her first U.S #1. Reddy has attributed the impetus for writing "I Am Woman" and her early awareness of the women's movement to expatriate Australian rock critic and pioneer feminist Lillian Roxon. The single earned a Grammy Award and at the awards ceremony she concluded her acceptance speech by famously thanking God "because She makes everything possible".
Over the next five years, she had more than a dozen other U.S. Top 40 hits including two more #1 hits. These included the Alex Harvey country ballad "Delta Dawn" (#1, 1973), "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)" (#3), "Keep On Singing" (#15, 1974), "You And Me Against The World" (written by Paul Williams and featuring daughter Traci reciting the spoken bookends), "Emotion", "Peaceful" (#15), "Angie Baby" (#1), "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" (#8, 1975), the sophisticated Richard Kerr-Will Jennings "Somewhere In The Night" (#19; later a bigger hit for Barry Manilow), and the Carole King-Gerry Goffin song "I Can't Hear You No More" (1976). Her last Top 20 record was a 1977 revival of Cilla Black's 1964 hit "You're My World", co-produced by Kim Fowley.
The stories behind two of Reddy's biggest hits illustrate the often fickle nature of success in the music business. Both Bette Midler and the young Tanya Tucker recorded their own versions of "Delta Dawn" just before Reddy recorded hers. When the song started to get airplay, Barbra Streisand's producer Tom Catalano decided that Streisand could have a pop hit with it, so he had an instrumental backing track recorded. Fortunately for Reddy, Streisand refused to sing the song, so United Artists song plugger Wally Schuster called Jeff Wald and offered the song and the completed backing track to Reddy, who put her own vocal on it.
Reddy's version of "Delta Dawn" was released in the summer of 1973, just two days ahead Midler's version, but disc jockeys preferred Reddy's rendition and it eventually went to #1 on the U.S. charts and was a hit in several other countries including Australia.
She was equally fortunate with "Angie Baby" (written by Alan O'Day)—it was first offered to Cher, who turned it down, so it was then offered to Reddy, who snapped it up, and it became her third U.S. #1 single (Cher was similarly unlucky with the song "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia"—after she turned it down, it was recorded by Vicki Lawrence, who scored a #1 hit with it in 1973).
Reddy has also worked extensively both on stage and the screen, with roles in movies such as Airport 1975 and Walt Disney's Pete's Dragon, and numerous television series. She has also hosted two television series, including her own show and the late-night music series The Midnight Special. She has also appeared in a number of musical stage productions including Anything Goes, Call Me Madam, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. She is also known for her appearances in works by British playwright Willy Russell and has performed both on Broadway and in the West End of London in the musical Blood Brothers and four productions of Shirley Valentine.
At the height of her fame in the late 1970s, Helen Reddy was a headliner with a full chorus of backup singers and dancers to standing room only crowds on The Strip in Las Vegas. Reddy's opening act was then up and coming Joan Rivers.Reddy currently lives near Sydney, Australia.
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