Australian singer Helen Reddy has died at the age of 78.
Reddy, best known for her empowering anthem I Am Woman, died in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon, five years after she was diagnosed with dementia.
The Melbourne-born songstress and trailblazing 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.
The loss of an icon: Australian singer and trailblazing feminist icon Helen Reddy (pictured in January 2019) died in Los Angeles on Tuesday after battling dementia for years. She was 78
Reddy’s two children, Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers, announced their mother’s death 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 formidable woman. Our hearts are broken. But we take comfort in the knowledge that her voice will live on forever.’
Her cause of death has not been confirmed.
Since her dementia diagnosis in 2015, Reddy had been living in a nursing home in LA for retired Hollywood talent.
Tragic: Reddy’s children announced her death on Wednesday. Pictured in 1970
Rest in peace: While her cause of death has not been confirmed, she had been living in a nursing home in LA for retired Hollywood talent since her dementia diagnosis in 2015. Pictured at the Oscars in 1980 with her second husband, Jeff Wald
Media commentator Peter Ford said on 6PR: ‘She has been in not great health for several years now. You may be aware that dementia struck her about three years ago and she’s been getting progressively worse.’
Reddy was a pioneer behind the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, and her death 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.
Changes: Reddy was a pioneer behind the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, and her death comes just months after the biopic I Am Woman depicted the many social changes her music inspired throughout her career
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 fight 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 death: ‘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.
Iconic: 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
‘I will forever be grateful to Helen for teaching me so much about being an artist, a woman and a mother.
‘She paved 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 enormously. 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.
‘I see dying as going home’: Back in 2005, Reddy said she wasn’t afraid of dying in an interview with Australian broadcaster Margaret Throsby. Pictured in March 2005
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’s 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.’
Relationships: Reddy was married three times. Her second marriage was to Jeff Wald (left) in 1968. They had a son named Jordan, born in 1972, but divorced in 1983. She later married Milton Ruth (right), a drummer in her band, but they divorced in 1995
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 divorced in 1983.
Her third husband was Milton Ruth, a drummer in her band, but they divorced in 1995.
Reddy is survived by her two children and her granddaughter, Lily.
Back in 2005, Reddy said she wasn’t afraid of dying in an interview with Australian broadcaster Margaret Throsby.
‘I see dying 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.’
You can watch I Am Woman on Stan
Biopic: Reddy was the subject of a 2019 biopic titled I Am Woman, in which she was portrayed by actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey (pictured). I Am Woman is available to stream on Stan
The life and times of Helen Reddy
1941: Helen Reddy was born in Melbourne
1961: Reddy married her first husband, Kenneth Weate, before the pair parted ways after the birth of their daughter, Traci, in 1963
1962: The singer made her first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
1966: Reddy married her second husband, Jeff Wald. They welcomed a son named Jordan in 1972 and divorced in 1983
1971: Reddy released her debut studio album, I Don’t Know How to Love Him
1972: The singer released her third studio album, I Am Woman
1973: Reddy won the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for I Am Woman, and famously said: ‘I’d like to thank God, because she makes everything possible’. She also became the first Australian singer to top the U.S. charts
1974: Reddy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in the music industry
1976: Helen released her eighth studio album, Music, Music. She went on to release a total of 18 studio albums throughout her career, worked on TV shows and also focused on activism for the next few decades
1983: She married Milton Ruth. The pair went on to divorce in 1995
2002: Reddy announced her retirement from performing
2011: Billboard named her No. 28 in its list of the best adult contemporary artists of all time
2015: Anonymous sources claimed Reddy had been diagnosed with dementia
2017: Reddy appeared at the Women’s March in LA, singing an a capella version of I Am Woman
2019: A biopic of Reddy’s life, I Am Woman, was produced for streaming platform Stan. She was played by actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey
2020: Helen Reddy died on September 29