She is woman,
hear her roar
by Richard Dodds
Helen Reddy set feminism to music, turning a sober subject suitable for a symposium into a jaunty hit song heard on millions of AM radios in the early 1970s. Written by Reddy and Ray Burton, "I Am Woman" became an instant anthem of the women's movement, and turned Reddy into a pop star who would have 15 more songs to reach the tops of the Billboard charts. If the new hits stopped coming, Reddy didn't stop performing the old ones into the next millennium. And then she just couldn't take it anymore.
She gave her farewell concert in 2002, sold her home in Santa Monica, moved back to her native Australia, and closed up the vocal shop. "I decided there was no way I was going to sing those hits over and over again," Reddy said, "and since I had started singing when I was 5 in my parents' act, I thought it was time to do some things I had always wanted to do outside of show business."
Before looking at some of those other interests, which include a career as a hypnotherapist who helps clients connect with the deceased, let it be known that Reddy has come out of retirement. She'll be singing at Yoshi's San Francisco on Oct. 3 and 4, and after she moves back to Los Angeles at the start of the new year, her schedule picks up steam.
"The impetus to my return to singing was my sister's 80th birthday, and she asked if I would sing a duet with her at her party," Reddy said from her son's L.A. home, where she is staying. "I heard my voice coming back over the monitors, and I thought, 'Oh, that doesn't sound too bad.' I'm really enjoying it so much more than I did before because enough time has passed that I'm not obliged to sing all the greatest hits anymore."
Those greatest hits include "Delta Dawn," "You and Me Against the World," "Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady," and "Angie Baby." At least a few will be encored at Yoshi's, but you will definitely not hear "Leave Me Alone." She said, "I had to sing the line 'leave me alone' 43 times in the course of three minutes. Never again."
And yes, she does perform "I Am Woman." "But now I recite it, because I find speaking it gives it a lot more impact," she said. Her repertoire also includes songs from her albums that never had air-play, as well as several standards. And she ad-libs with the audience, talking about her long career from child performer to her current life.
After dropping out of show business a decade ago and moving back to Australia, she earned a degree in clinical hypnotherapy. Her practice has not been in such matters as helping clients stop smoking or lose weight, but rather in a more spiritual realm. "I do past-life regressions," she said. "I specialize in putting people together with loved ones who have passed over. It's like you escort someone to a meeting place, and I have no control over who comes through. It's very much a healing process, which is unlike traditional psychiatry, which seems to be about making you feel bad about yourself."
Reddy wants to move back to the States to be closer to her two grown children and her granddaughter. Married and divorced herself three times, Reddy said, "I've been a practicing celibate for 13 years."
So it's only an asset that most of her male friends are gay, she said. "It's so nice to be with men who are not coming on to you or judging you. And, God bless them, they feed me, because I get invited to a lot of dinners."
Helen Reddy will perform Oct. 3-4 at Yoshi's San Francisco. Tickets are $45. Call 655-5600 or go to www.yoshis.com/sanfrancisco.