Australian singer Helen Reddy has passed away at the age of 78. Reddy, best known for her empowering anthem I Am Woman, passed away in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon, five years after she was d!agnosed with dem-entia.
The Melbourne-born songstress and tra!lblazing feminist – whose life was recently crafted into a biopic named after her most famous song – was also known for her hits Delta Dawn and Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady.
Reddy’s two children, Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers, announced their mother’s loss on Facebook. They wrote in a joint statement: ‘It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved mother, Helen Reddy, on the afternoon of September 29, 2020, in Los Angeles.
‘She was a wonderful mother, grandmother, and a truly form!dable woman. Our hearts are br-oken. But we take comfort in the knowledge that her voice will live on forever.’ Her ca-use of loss has not been confirmed. Since her dem-entia d!agnosis in 2015, Reddy had been living in a nursing home in LA for retired Hollywood talent.
Media commentator Peter Ford said on 6PR: ‘She has been in not great health for several years now. You may be aware that dem-entia str-uck her about three years ago and she’s been getting progressively wo-rse.’Reddy was a pioneer behind the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, and her loss comes just months after the Stan biopic I Am Woman depicted the many social changes her music inspired throughout her career.
The film follows the early days of Reddy’s career, shortly after she moved to America in the 1970s, in the middle of the women’s rights movement.Her hit song I Am Woman became an anthem for the movement, but success didn’t come easy for Reddy, who had to convince record executives of its value.
She also had to f!ght for fair pay, after learning her all-male band was earning more money than she was.The film stars Australian actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Reddy, and also features Evan Peters and Danielle Macdonald in supporting roles.The biopic has as its centerpiece Reddy’s famous Grammy Awards acceptance speech after she won Best Female Pop Vocal.
‘I’d like to thank God, because she makes everything possible,’ she memorably said.The director of I Am Woman, Unjoo Moon, said after Reddy’s loss: ‘When I first met Helen Reddy, she told me that I would be in her life for many years.’What followed was an amazing seven-year friendship during which she entrusted me with telling her story in a film that celebrates her life, her talents and her amazing legacy.
‘I will forever be grateful to Helen for teaching me so much about being an artist, a woman, and a mother.’She pa-ved the way for so many and the lyrics that she wrote for I Am Woman changed my life forever like they have done for so many other people and will continue to do for generations to come.’Moon continued: ‘She will always be a part of me and I will miss her eno-rmously. On behalf of all of us involved in making the film, I am Woman, producer Rosemary Blight and I extend our condolences to Helen’s family especially her children Traci and Jordan, her granddaughter Lily and her ex-husband Jeff.’
In an interview with Billboard in September, actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey, 25, said she’d opted not to meet Helen before working on the movie. She only met the legendary singer ‘right at the end’ of filming.’Helen is at a very different stage in her life now. We’re obviously talking about her from the age of 24 to 48, and it was really important that I stayed present within that part of her life,’ Cobham-Hervey explained.
‘There’s also so much information about her. I read her book, which was really helpful. There are a million interviews and all her performances, and the director Unjoo had such a close relationship with her and her family that I had all the knowledge and research that I needed.’ We’re still making a film and creating characters, and I fell so in love with her that I think I would’ve found it really hard to meet her.’
Reddy was married three times. At age 20, she married musician and family friend Kenneth Weate, but they separated shortly after the birth of their daughter, Traci. She later married Jeff Wald in 1968 and they welcomed a son named Jordan in 1972. However, the pair d!vorced in 1983. Her third husband was Milton Ruth, a drummer in her band, but they d!vorced in 1995. Reddy is surv!ved by her two children and her granddaughter, Lily.
Back in 2005, Reddy said she wasn’t afraid of dy!ng in an interview with Australian broadcaster Margaret Throsby.’I see loss as going home… where we came from,’ she said. ‘Where we all go back to. I’ve seen enough of the other side to know that that is our true home. That is where we are loved beyond anything we can imagine here.’
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