Helen Reddy was born in Melbourne, Australia, the daughter of show business parents. In 1966, she won a television talent contest and was on her way to America, in search of fame and fortune. Within a few months, she had met and married an assistant mailroom boy, Jeff Wald, who became her manager. Twenty-seven record labels rejected her material before she was finally signed by Capitol Records in 1970.
Her first charted song, "I Don't Know How To Love Him", was one that Helen never liked, and only agreed to record it as a "B" side for one of her singles. However, husband Jeff thought different, and with only a credit card and a phone, worked eighteen hours a day, phoning radio stations, pleading for air play. His efforts paid off, when "I Don't Know How To Love Him" became a top 20 hit in the spring of 1971.
In 1972, Helen recorded the song that would not only change her life, but become an anthem for the woman's movement around the world. "I Am Woman" hit the top of the charts and earned her a Grammy award.
Her next release, "Peaceful", also was a hit and led to her most successful record, "Delta Dawn", again following her image as a spokesperson for the woman's movement.
The song nearly slipped through Helen's fingers, as Bette Midler had planned on releasing it and a very young Tanya Tucker actually did. When the song started to get some notice, Tom Catalano who was producing Barbra Streisand, decided that Barbra could have a hit in the pop market with it and had an instrumental backing track recorded. When Barbra refused to sing the song, United Artists song plugger Wally Schuster called Jeff Wald to ask if Helen would be interested. They made the deal and Helen put her voice on the track.
In the summer of 1973, the song was released just two days ahead of the Bette Midler version and ended up at the number one spot on the hit parade. D.J.s preferred Helen's version and flipped Midler's record over to make a hit out of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy".
Helen Reddy went on to solidify her position as one of the most successful female hitmakers of all time with "Ruby Red Dress" in 1973, "Keep On Singin'", "You and Me Against the World" and "Angie Baby" in 1974. She followed in 1975 with "Emotion" and "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" before less successful songs in 1976 and 1977 like "Music Is My Life" and "You're My World".
With these successes solidly behind her, Helen returned to her theatrical roots with starring roles in productions of "Anything Goes," "Call Me Madam," and "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." A huge fan herself of English playwright and composer Willy Russell, Helen has become the foremost interpreter of his work, appearing both on Broadway and in the West End of London in the hit musical "Blood Brothers" and four productions of Russell's one-woman play "Shirley Valentine."
Although Helen had been winning rave reviews for her theatrical work, she still continued to appear in concert and with symphony orchestras. Her 1998 album, "Center Stage", is a perfect meld of Helen's distinctive recording sound with the Broadway songs she has now claimed has her own.
In the new millennium, Helen released "The Essential Helen Reddy Collection: I Am Woman", her first and only definitive retrospective, encompassing 23 of the biggest hits, cherished album tracks and various movie themes. With detailed liner notes, rare photos, and the participation of Helen herself, this is the ultimate souvenir of one of the world's most legendary and influential entertainers. Active in community affairs, Helen served for three years as Commissioner of Parks and Recreation for the State of California. Of the many honours she has received, Helen is most proud of the tulip named for her in Holland.
Helen retired from live performing in 2002 and went on to practice as a clinical hypnotherapist and motivational speaker. She moved from her longtime residence in Santa Monica, California back to her native Australia. Reddy published her autobiography, The Woman I Am, and appeared on the Today show in 2006. Sadly, she suffers from Addison's disease, a failure of the adrenal glands, which requires constant treatment, but continues to be active in women's issues. Helen had a featured role in the crime film, The Perfect Host, starring David Hyde-Pierce, which hit theaters on July 1st, 2011.
Helen Reddy's biggest hits:
I Don't Know How To Love Him - #13 - 1971
I Am Woman - #1 - 1972
Peaceful - #12 - 1973
Delta Dawn - #1 - 1973
Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress) - #3 - 1973
Keep On Singing - #15 - 1974
You And Me Against The World - #9 - 1974
Angie Baby - #1 - 1974
Emotion - #22 - 1975
Bluebird - #35 - 1975
Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady - #8 - 1975
Somewhere In The Night - #19 - 1975
I Can't Hear You No More - #29 - 1976
You're My World - #18 - 1977
For more, be sure to read Gary James' Interview With Helen Reddy