A Rockapaedia Obituary

Helen Reddyphoto of Helen Reddy

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    Helen Reddy died aged seventy-eight on 29th of September, 2020, in Los Angeles, California, United States of America. She had suffered from Addison's disease and dementia for some time but no actual cause of death was released.  Helen was an enthusiastic genealogist and she researched her family's history extensively and founded the Tasmanian Genealogical Society.
    At the age of twenty, Helen married Kenneth Claude Weate, an older musician and family friend whom she says she wed to defy her parents, who wished her to follow them into show business. The couple separated not long after the birth of their daughter, Traci. Then in 1968, Helen married Jeff Wald, a native of the Bronx; she had converted to Judaism before marrying him. They had a son, Jordan, who was born in 1972 but by January of 1981 they had separated. Helen Reddy subsequently filed for divorce, yet withdrew her petition the day after filing it, stating: "After thirteen years of marriage, a separation of one month is too short to make a decision." In 1982, after finding evidence of Wald's continued substance abuse, Helen Reddy again separated from him and initiated divorce proceedings, which this time went through in January 1983. They agreed to shared custody of their son Jordan, but later became embroiled in a court battle after both filed for sole custody. Her son later changed his surname to Sommers and became Helen's personal assistant.  In June 1983, Helen married a drummer in her band but the couple divorced in 1995.
    Helen Reddy had Irish, Scottish, and English ancestry and at age four, she joined her parents on the Australian vaudeville circuit, singing and dancing. She sang on radio and television, eventually winning a talent contest on the Australian pop music TV show Bandstand, the prize ostensibly being a trip to New York City to cut a single for Mercury Records. After arriving in New York in 1966, she was informed by Mercury that her prize was only the chance to "audition" for the label and that Mercury considered the Bandstand footage to constitute her audition, which was deemed unsuccessful. However, she decided to remain in the United States with her three year-old daughter, -Traci and pursue a singing career.
    At a party thrown for her in NewYork, Helen met her future manager and husband, Jeff Wald, a 22-year-old secretary at the William Morris Agency. Wald recalled that Helen and he married three days after meeting, and along with daughter Traci, the couple took up residence at the Hotel Albert in Greenwich Village. They later left New York City for Chicago and Wald landed a job as talent coordinator at Mister Kelly's. While in Chicago, Helen gained a reputation singing in local lounges, including Mister Kelly's, and in 1968, she landed a deal with Fontana Records, a division of major label Chicago-based Mercury Records. Her first single, "One Way Ticket", on Fontana was not an American hit, but it did give Helen her first appearance on any chart, as it peaked at number 83 in her native Australia.
    Within a year, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Wald was hired at Capitol Records, the label under which Helen Reddy was to attain stardom. Wald found success managing acts such as Deep Purple and Tiny Tim without making much evident effort to promote Helen. Then after a year and a half of career inactivity, Helen Reddy gave her Wald an ultimatum that he would have to either revitalise her career or get out and Jeff Wald threw himself into his new career as Mr. Helen Reddy. Five months of phone calls to Capitol Records executive Artie Mogull finally paid off; Mogull agreed to let Helen cut one single if Jeff promised not to call for a month. She did "I Believe in Music" penned by Mac Davis backed with "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar. The A-side fell flat, but then some Canadian DJs flipped the record over and it became a hit – number 13 in June 1971 – and Helen Reddy was at last on her way.
    Helen's stardom was solidified when her single "I Am Woman" reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1972. The song was co-written by Helen Reddy with Ray Burton; Helen Reddy 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. Helen Reddy is quoted in Fred Bronson's The Billboard Book of Number One Hits as having said that she was looking for songs to record which reflected the positive self-image she had gained from joining the women's movement but could not find any, so "I realised that the song I was looking for didn't exist, and I was going to have to write it myself. " I Am Woman" was recorded and released in May 1972 but barely dented the charts. Female listeners soon adopted the song as an anthem and began requesting it from their local radio stations in droves, resulting in its September chart re-entry and eventual number-one peak. "I Am Woman" earned Helen Reddy a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. At the awards ceremony, Helen Reddy concluded her acceptance speech by famously thanking God "because She makes everything possible". The success of "I Am Woman" made Helen Reddy the first Australian singer to top the U.S. charts.
    Three decades after her Grammy, Helen Reddy discussed the song's iconic status: "I think it came along at the right time. I'd gotten involved in the women's movement, and 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," she said.
    Over the next five years following her first success, Helen Reddy had more than a dozen U.S. top-40 hits, including two more number-one hits. On 23rd July 1974, Helen Reddy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in the music industry, located at 1750 Vine Street.
    At the zenith of her fame, in the mid-nineteen-seventies, Helen Reddy was a headliner, with a full chorus of backup singers and dancers to standing-room-only crowds on the Las Vegas Strip. Among Helen Reddy's opening acts were Joan Rivers, David Letterman, Bill Cosby, and Barry Manilow. In nineteen seventy-six, Helen Reddy recorded the Beatles' song "The Fool on the Hill" for the musical documentary 'All This and World War II'.
    Helen Reddy was also instrumental in supporting the career of her friend Olivia Newton-John, encouraging her to emigrate from England to the United States in the early 1970s, giving her professional opportunities that did not exist in the United Kingdom. At a party at Helen Reddy's house after a chance meeting with Allan Carr, a film producer, Olivia Newton-John won the starring role in the hit film version of the musical Grease.
    Helen Reddy was most successful on the Easy Listening chart, scoring eight number-one hits there over a three-year span, from "Delta Dawn" in 1973 to "I Can't Hear You No More" in 1976. However, the latter track evidenced a sharp drop in popularity for Helen Reddy, with a number-29 peak on the Billboard Hot 100. Helen Reddy's 1977 remake of Cilla Black's 1964 hit "You're My World" indicated comeback potential, with a number-18 peak, but this track – co-produced by Kim Fowley – would prove to be Helen Reddy's last top-40 hit. Its source album, Ear Candy, Helen Reddy's 10th album, became her first album to not attain at least gold status since her second full-length release, 1972's Helen Reddy.
    In 1978, Helen Reddy sang as a backup singer on Gene Simmons's solo album on the song "True Confessions". Also that year also saw the release of Helen Reddy's only live album, ' Live in London', recorded at the London Palladium, United Kingdom.
    Of Helen Reddy's eight subsequent single releases on Capitol, five reached the Easy Listening top fifty, including, "Candle on the Water",: "The Happy Girls" , and "I Am Woman", Helen Reddy's only chart item that she co-wrote. Also the disco tracks "Ready or Not" and "Make Love to Me" , the latter a cover of an Australian hit by Kelly Marie, which gave Helen Reddy a lone R&B chart ranking at number fifty-nine. Helen Reddy also made it to number ninety-eight on the Country chart with "Laissez les bon Temps Rouler", the B-side to "The Happy Girls".'
  Without the flow of any major hits, Helen Reddy's four Capitol album releases subsequent to 'Ear Candy' failed to make the charts. In May 1981 there was the release of 'Play Me Out', Helen Reddy's debut album for MCA Records. Helen Reddy's new label affiliation, though, would result in only one minor success; her remake of Becky Hobbs's 1979 country hit "I Can't Say Goodbye to You" returned her for the last time to the Billboard Hot 100 at number eighty-eight; it also returned Helen Reddy to the charts in the UK and Ireland. Helen Reddy's 14th November 1981 Top of the Pops performance brought "I Can't Say Goodbye to You" into the UK top 50; the track would rise there no higher than number 43, but in Ireland reached number 16, giving Helen Reddy her final high placing on a major national chart. MCA released one further Helen Reddy album: 'Imagination', in 1983 and it proved to be Helen Reddy's final release as a career recording artist. The unsuccessful 'Imagination' was released just after the finalisation of Helen Reddy's divorce from Wald, whose alleged subsequent interference in her career Helen Reddy blamed for the decline of her career profile in the mid-1980s. Helen Reddy states that she was effectively being blacklisted from her established performance areas, which led to her pursuing a career in theatre, where Wald had no significant influence.
    In 1990, Helen Reddy issued 'Feel So Young' on her own label – an album that includes remakes of her repertoire favourites. Meanwhile, her one recording in the interim had been the 1987 dance maxi-single "Mysterious Kind", on which Helen had vocally supported Jessica Williams. The 1997 release of 'Center Stage' was an album of show tunes that Helen Reddy recorded for Varèse Sarabande; the track "Surrender" – originating in Sunset Boulevard – was remixed for release as a dance maxi-single. Helen Reddy's final album was the 2000 seasonal release 'The Best Christmas Ever'. In April 2015, Helen Reddy released a cover of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" for the album 'Keep Calm and Salute The Beatles' on the Purple Pyramid label.
    Despite her late 1970s decline on the music charts, Helen Reddy still had sufficient star power in 1979 to host 'The Helen Helen Reddy Special', broadcast that May on ABC-TV, of which Jeff Wald was the producer. In image of Helen ReddySeptember 1981, Helen Reddy announced she would be shooting the pilot for her own TV sitcom, in which she would play a single mother working as a lounge singer in Lake Tahoe, but this project was abandoned.
    In the mid-1980s, Helen Reddy embarked on a new career in the theatre. She mostly worked in musicals, including Anything Goes, Call Me Madam, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and – both on Broadway and the West End – Blood Brothers. She also appeared in four productions of the one-woman show Shirley Valentine.
    Helen Reddy announced her retirement from performing in 2002, giving her farewell performance with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The same year, she moved from her longtime residence in Santa Monica, California, back to her native Australia to spend time with her family, living first on Norfolk Island before taking up residence in Sydney.
    In 2012, Helen Reddy decided to return to performing after being buoyed by the warm reception she received when she sang at her sister's 80th birthday party.

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music: 'Helen Reddy's Greatest Hits'