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Reddy For More!

Helen Reddy Comes to Provincetown

by Steve Desroches  

Helen Reddy was at her sister’s 80th birthday party last year. The singer had been in retirement for about a decade leaving behind a life of recording and performing for a more relaxed pace in her flat overlooking Sydney Harbor. Her sister, famed Australian actress Toni Lamond, asked Reddy to do a duet for the 80 people assembled to celebrate Lamond turning 80. They sang an old 1920s song, “Breezin’ Along with the Breeze” in harmony.

“I had not heard my voice in 10 years because I hadn’t sung,” says Reddy by phone from California. “And I thought ‘Hey, that’s not bad’.”

Now at age 71, Reddy is coming out of retirement and has returned to the United States to tour around the country, kicking off a new round of concert dates with two shows at the Crown and Anchor this Columbus Day Weekend in her Provincetown debut.

“I love being on the road with my band,” says Reddy. “It’s my greatest joy.”

Born and raised in Melbourne, Reddy’s parents were stars on the Australian vaudeville circuit. After winning a talent competition on Australian television, Reddy came to New York City in 1966. She struggled throughout the 1960s, but the next decade would see Reddy shoot into the stratosphere as a singer and actress. It all began when she released the single “I Believe in Music” in 1971. While the song was a flop, a Canadian DJ flipped the album and played the B-side, Reddy’s version of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar. It was a hit. But a year later, it was a song that Reddy wrote herself that would propel her to not only super stardom, but to an iconic role in the movement for gender equality and the rights of women. In 1972 she wrote and recorded “I Am Woman,” which reached number one on the Billboard charts in December 1972 and earned Reddy a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, making her the first ever Australian to win the recording award.

Photo: Hernan Rodgriguez/Courtesy of the Stander Group Inc.

“I don’t know who coined the phrase, but I wrote an anthem,” says Reddy, referring to a comment made by a music critic about her song that captured the energy and spirit of the movement. “That’s good because we needed one.”

Reddy wrote “I Am Woman” out of frustration at not being able to find a song that captured the global movement for women’s equality. Promoters got Reddy multiple television spots to sing the song while she was late into the pregnancy of her second child. Women from all over the United States, Canada, and Australia called local radio stations requesting the song, pushing it higher and higher on the charts. That same year Gloria Steinem launched Ms. magazine, and Cleo, a feminist magazine in Australia began publishing that year as well, giving the song further media attention as the movement gained momentum. It became a staple of feminist organization conferences, both opening and closing the National Organization for Women conference in 1973. NOW founder Betty Friedan wrote several years later, “Suddenly, women got out of their seats and started dancing around the hotel ballroom and joining hands in a circle that got larger and larger until maybe a thousand of us were dancing and singing, ‘I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.’ It was a spontaneous, beautiful expression of the exhilaration we all felt in those years, women really moving as women.”

Reddy really shook things up at the Grammy Awards in March 1973 when during her acceptance speech she thanked God and said, “because she makes everything possible.”

While the lasting cultural impact of “I Am Woman” has made Reddy an historic figure, she is also one of the most accomplished singers of the modern era, with over a dozen top 40 hits, including “Delta Dawn,” “You and Me Against the World,” “Angie Baby,” “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady,” and “Somewhere in the Night.” While she is touring she includes many of her classic hits, as well as new work and cover songs she’s never sung in public before. But there is one classic Reddy song you will not hear her perform anymore.

“I do get completely bored if I have to sing ‘Leave Me Alone’,” says Reddy, who begins to sing the phrase “leave me alone” about 20 times to give an example of the monotony of the 1974 hit song that now drives her crazy. “And that’s just in the first chorus. No, I don’t sing that one anymore. The young lady who wrote that song was not up all night working on that one.”

In addition to creating an iconic feminist work and providing a soundtrack to much of the 1970s, Reddy is also known for her roles in films such as the Disney classic Pete’s Dragon in which she sang the Academy Award nominated song “Candle on the Water,” and in the disaster genre hit Airport 1975 as a singing nun, giving her cult classic status. She’s had her own variety show and television specials, and on into the 1980s she expanded into television and on to Broadway and London’s West End, in productions of Blood Brothers, and in other productions of Anything Goes, Call Me Madam, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In the 1990s Reddy toured with a production of Shirley Valentine, which brought her to the stage at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis.

“I think I might have gone up and taken a look around,” says Reddy, of coming to visit Provincetown. “I’m really excited about going this time. I’m certain I will have a very enthusiastic audience.”

Reddy’s varied career has had her dining with the Prince of Wales, dancing with the President of the United States at State Dinners, and even having a tulip bulb named after her in Holland. She’s sung at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Palladium in London, as well as Royal Albert Hall. She was the first female from the West to be invited to sing in the People’s Republic of China. She truly is invincible, strong, and can do anything. It’s that varied and accomplished career that has her returning from retirement already such a success.

“Yes, my life is very compartmentalized,” says Reddy of her varied career achievements. “I had a party when I turned 50 and most people that attended didn’t know each other! I love what I do. I love to do so many things.”

Helen Reddy will perform in concert at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Provincetown, Sunday, October 13 and Monday, October 14 at 8 p.m. Only preferred tickets for Monday evening’s show are left; they are $95 and available at the box office and at For more information call 508.487.1430.

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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