The voice behind the pop anthem, “I Am Woman,” died on Tuesday. Helen Reddy’s children announced her passing in a Facebook message. While Reddy had other popular releases, none had quite the staying power of “I Am Woman.” The Australian-American singer managed to craft a song that sounded uniquely American (somehow) and has resonated with listeners decade after decade.
The singer had reportedly suffered from various illnesses and had been negatively impacted by the social restrictions imposed by the presence of COVID-19. Her ex-husband, Jeff Wald, told the Daily Mail UK that the singer had dementia and her last day was spent with their daughter. The Daily Mail also reports that the singer had “liver or kidney failure.”
Helen Reddy: A voice that made others feel “strong” and “invincible”
Despite the illnesses that took her life, Reddy lives on in the song that she eventually won a Grammy for in 1973–“I Am Woman.” The pop song contains raw power that comes from its assertion of the truth, and in Reddy’s solid, yet softly lilting voice, that truth became an anthem for women across the US.
One of the nicest touches to “I Am Woman” is that Reddy mixes pronouns so that the personal becomes public, the singular becomes plural. “I am woman hear me roar/in numbers too big to ignore…” As she is in “numbers,” Reddy is not just referring to herself, she is referring to women everywhere. The result is energizing and beautiful, in a way not often found in popular music. Reddy’s voice and sentiment steal the show, and sheer determination can be found in every note.
According to reports, Reddy spent her last days in a home for retired performers who are at least 70 years old who have worked in entertainment for at least 20 years. The Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Country House had been ravaged by coronavirus infections. Four residents died from the infections, 24 had been made ill, as well as nine employees.
Reddy is survived by her ex-husband Jeff Wald, and their two children, Jordan and Traci.