Australia’s first female prime minister Julia Gillard has penned a heartfelt tribute to singer Helen Reddy, hailing her as a global feminist icon.
The Melbourne-born songstress most famous for the empowering girl anthem I Am Woman died in a Los Angeles nursing home on Tuesday aged 78, five years after she was diagnosed with dementia.
Ms Gillard had just celebrated her 12th birthday in Adelaide when I Am Woman first roared to the top of the music charts in 1971, which resonated with and became the soundtrack of the former prime minister’s life.
Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard (pictured) has described the late Helen Reddy as a global feminist icon following her death
‘We have lost a global feminist icon in Helen Reddy. For decades her song ‘I am Woman’ has given full-throated voice to our fight for gender equality. Every word still relevant, no message dated, including we have ‘a long, long way to go’. Her legacy will endure. Hear us roar,’ Ms Gillard tweeted hours after Reddy’s death.
She has since recalled her three favourite memories of Reddy in a moving tribute penned for the ABC.
The first is of a youthful 30-year-old Reddy in her pink halter top belting out the powerful lyrics to I Am Woman in the music clip when the song first stormed into the charts.
‘You were carried away by her power and potential as she sang, ‘you can bend but never break me, because it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal,’ Ms Gillard wrote.
Julia Gillard was 12 when Helen Reddy’s empowering anthem stormed into the music charts
Tributes continue to flow for feminist icon and Melbourne-born singer Helen Reddy
The second of an older Reddy on stage at a Women’s March in the US marking inauguration of President Donald Trump in early 2017.
‘Here she is small, grey-haired, much nearer to the end of her life, yet there is still power in the punch she throws into the air as she sings ‘I am strong,’ Ms Gillard wrote.
Ms Gillard said those two iconic moments portray the power of purpose that comes with the vitality of youth and the experience of age.
‘Remarkably, the message of I Am Woman perfectly fits both moments. Every word is still relevant, no message has dated, including that we have ‘a long, long way to go,’ she wrote.
Australian singer and trailblazing feminist icon Helen Reddy (pictured in January 2019) died in Los Angeles on Tuesday after battling dementia for five years. She was 78
Ms Gillard’s third memory is Reddy’s jaw-dropping acceptance speech for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 1973 Grammy Awards.
Reddy was the first Australian to win a Grammy Award, where she famously thanked God in her acceptance speech because ‘she makes everything possible’.
Ms Gillard added Reddy’s life was more than just one song, paying tribute to her showbusiness career that expanded to television, stage musicals and also movies, along with the various health complications she bravely faced through her life.
Reddy’s death come a year after a biopic of her life, I Am Woman, was produced for streaming platform Stan.
Reddy is survived by her two children Traci and Jordan and her granddaughter, Lily.
Helen Reddy’s 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
The life and times of Helen Reddy
1941: Helen Reddy was born in Melbourne
1961: She married her first husband, Kenneth Weate, before the pair parted ways after the birth of their daughter, Traci, in 1963
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: She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in the music industry
1976: Reddy 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