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Singer and feminist icon Helen Reddy dies at 78

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Australian singer, actor and activist Helen Reddy has died, aged 78.

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“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved mother,” her children Traci and Jordan posted on Facebook.

“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.”

Born in Melbourne in 1941, Reddy was best known for her song I Am Woman, which became the unofficial anthem of the 70s feminist movement.

The song went to No. 1 in the US in 1972 and was succeeded by further hits, Delta Dawn and Angie Baby, in 1973 and 1974.

At the 1973 Grammys, as she accepted her pop female vocalist award, Reddy further cemented her status as a symbol of the women’s liberation movement when she thanked “God – because She makes everything possible.”

That same year she hosted a network variety show, “The Helen Reddy Show,” for eight episodes, before going on to an acting career that included roles in Pete’s Dragon and Airport ’75.

In 2006 Reddy published her memoir, The Woman I Am.

She was diagnosed with dementia in 2015 and died in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Reddy’s last tour of Australia in 2014 including a show at the Adelaide Festival Centre.

Speaking with InDaily at the time, she said she had no idea when she penned “I Am Woman” that it would become a women’s rights anthem and propel her to the status of a feminist icon: “I would not have had the balls to sit down and write it [if I did] … I was just expressing myself.”

Reddy also said it was boredom that prompted her to tour again despite having retired from live performance in 2002.

South Australian actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey plays the iconic singer in a new biopic, directed by Australian Unjoo Moon and launched on streaming service Stan in August.

Titled I Am Woman, the film will have a special cinema screening – with the filmmakers in attendance – at next month’s Adelaide Film Festival. It documents Reddy’s arrival in New York in 1966 as a young single mum and follows her rocky marriage and rise to fame in the music industry, including the release of “I Am Woman”.

 

-with AAP

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