Helen Reddy – Biography
Helen Reddy was born on 25th of October 1941 into a well-known Australian show business family in Melbourne. Her mother, Stella Campbell was an actress, while her father, Maxwell David “Max” Reddy was a writer, producer and actor. Helen Reddy started performing with her parents on the Australian vaudeville circuit at the tender age of four.
Reddy grew up to be a rebellious youth, not wanting to be a star that her parents wanted her to be. In a rebellious streak, she married Kenneth Claude Weate, a considerably older musician and family friend. The marriage of course did not last and divorce ensued within a few months which by when Helen Reddy was already carrying a baby. She gave birth to a daughter several months after the divorce and to support her baby daughter, Helen Reddy resumed her performing career.
In 1966, Helen Reddy won a talent contest on the Australian pop music TV show which promised an opportunity to cut a single for Mercury Records in New York City. However, on arrival, things did not turn out as expected, With only a couple of hundred dollars left, she decided to stay in New York with her daughter to seek her fortune.
In the spring of 1968, down to her last dollars, fellow Australian Reddy had met in New York City decided to help out by throwing Reddy a party with an admission price of five dollars to enable Reddy to make some money for her rent. It was a blessing as this was the occasion where Helen Reddy was to meet Jeff Wald, a 22-year-old secretary at the William Morris Agency. It was love at first sight and after a whirlwind romance of 3 days, they got married.
Unfortunately,luck was not on their side as Wald was fired from William Morris soon after their marriage and things went from bad to worse.
Helen supported them for six months doing $35-a-night hospital and charity benefits. They were so broke that they sneaked out of a hotel room carrying their clothes in paper bags.” Reddy recalled: “When we did eat, it was spaghetti, and we spent what little money we had on cockroach spray
Eventually the family re-located to Chicago where Wald landed a job as talent coordinator at Mister Kelly’s. Helen Reddy’s fortune too was taking a turn for the better, gaining a reputation singing in local lounges. She landed a deal with Fontana Records and cut her first single, “One Way Ticket”, on Fontana. It did not do well in America, but it did give Reddy her first ever appearance on any chart as it peaked at #83 in her native Australia.
After spending a year in Chicago, Wald relocated Reddy and Traci to Los Angeles, where Wald got a job at Capitol Records. Wald found success managing such acts as Deep Purple and Tiny Tim and he pestered Capitol Records for five months to let Helen Reddy cut a single. It became a hit topping at #13 in June 1971 and Helen Reddy was on her way.
In December 1972, her single “I Am Woman” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 consolidating Helen Reddy as an international super star.
Helen Reddy was often referred to as the “Queen of 70s Pop”.
In the 1970s, she enjoyed international success, especially in the United States, where she placed fifteen singles in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. Six of those 15 songs made the Top 10 and three of those songs reached No. 1, including her signature hit “I Am Woman.” She also placed 25 singles on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts. Fifteen of those singles made the Top 10 and 8 of those reached No. 1. She was the first artist to ever win the coveted American Music Award for “Favorite Pop/Rock Female” artist. She was also the first Australian to win a Grammy Award and to have three #1 hits in the same year. In television, Helen was the first Australian to host her own one-hour weekly primetime variety show on an American network, along with several specials that were seen in over forty countries