Helen Reddy was born in 1941 in Melbourne into a well-known Australian show business family. Her mother was an actress, singer and dancer and her father a writer, producer and actor. At age four, she joined her parents on the Australian vaudeville circuit, singing and dancing.
Helen’s marriage at age 20 to a musician ended in divorce and she supported herself as a single mother by singing on radio and television. In 1966 Helen won a talent contest on the TV show Bandstand with the prize being a trip to New York City to cut a single for Mercury Records. However, when she arrived, she was informed that her prize was only the chance to audition for the label and she was unsuccessful.
Despite possessing only US$200 Helen elected to remain in the US with her 3-year-old daughter and pursue a singing career. She struggled financially and her lack of a work permit made it difficult to obtain singing jobs in the US. Helen married American Jeff Wald in 1968 in New York. After moving to Chicago, she landed a recording deal. Her breakthrough record in 1971, I Don’t Know How to Love Him came from the musical Jesus Chris Superstar.
Her signature song, I Am Woman was co-written with Australian singer/songwriter Ray Burton who wrote the melody, Helen writing the words. Released in May 1972, female listeners adopted the song as an anthem for second-wave feminism and began requesting it from their local radio stations, pushing it to No.1 on the charts. I Am Woman earned her a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and its success made Helen the first Australian to top the US charts.
During the 1970s, Helen enjoyed international success, especially in the US where she had 15 singles in the Top 40. She was the first Australian to host her own weekly primetime variety show on American television, along with several specials that were seen in more than 40 countries.
Between the 1980s and 1990s she acted in musical theatre and recorded a few albums before retiring from live performance in 2002. She returned to university in Australia and earned her degree, and practised as a clinical hypnotherapist and motivational speaker.
Helen was married and divorced three times and has a daughter and a son. In 2017 she was diagnosed with dementia and lives in California.