THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT
“If I have to, I can do anything. I am strong, I am invincible, I am Woman.”
In the early 70s, Helen Reddy recorded her inspirational “I Am Woman”. The song reached number one in the US charts and became an anthem to the women’s liberation movement.
Helen Reddy from the 2013 Australian TV series “Time Of My Life,” hosted by Kerri-Anne Kennerley
I sat down and wrote, “I Am Woman” because I was about to do my first album and I wanted it to be different. I wanted it to be special. I didn’t want to be singing other people’s songs. I’m very proud of it. And I’m thrilled to bits that so many women come up to me or write to me or say how much it impacted their lives, how much it helped them. That kind of stuff makes me feel really good.
I began my show business career at age five at the Tivoli Theater in Perth, and my parents were performing there. I made a lot of noise because eventually they had to bring me out on stage. I was a plant in the audience and my father would say, “is there a little boy or girl who’d like to come up here and sing with me?” I’d be up like a shot and we’d sing together. Then my father would say, “You’ve never seen me before, have you little girl?” And I’d say, “No, Daddy.” And then I’d run off into the wings where Mum was waiting.
That was my entree into show business. I’d known all my life that I was destined to go to America, I just didn’t know how to get there. I entered a contest and I won so off I went to New York with my three year old in tow. I knew I wasn’t coming back. The height of my career was 1973. That was the same year that both my parents died and the aunt who had raised me, so I made several trips to Australia for funerals.
It was a very difficult year because I had three number one hits and nobody in America knew what I was going through down in Australia. There was a lot of, “Congratulations, you’ve got another hit. Isn’t that terrific?” It was a very tough year for me.
I had a long career. There have been certain performances like performing for the queen that stick in the memory. A friend of mine had the Modern American History high school textbook, and she said, “Have you seen this?” And she opened it up and there were the words to “I Am Woman” and a little bit about me. I thought, I’ve made history. I’m part of American history and I cried for three days, seriously.
I love being on stage now. There was a period when I dreaded going out there because I would have to sing all those songs I really didn’t want to sing. Now I sing the songs I love and I think that comes across to the audience. There’s a feeling that comes over me when I step out on that stage. I’m home.