Monday, December 1, 2014

Helen Reddy, The #39 Artist of the Seventies*

At age 4, Helen joined her parents on the Australian vaudeville circuit, singing and dancing.  Reddy went to Tintern Girls Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia.  She rebelled from performing and married an older man.  This soon resulted in divorce, but not until her daughter Traci was born.  As a single mother, Reddy now had to perform to make ends meet.

She sang on radio and television, winning a talent contest on the television show Bandstand.  Helen understood the prize to be a trip to New York City to record a single for Mercury Records.  When she arrived in the Big Apple, however, she realized that the prize was only a chance to audition, and Mercury considered the Bandstand footage unacceptable. 

Thus, Reddy was down to $200 to her name, yet she decided to remain in the United States with her daughter and pursue a singing career.  Work was tough to find in the beginning, and audiences were sparse.  Helen made several trips to Canada, where, like her native Australia, she had the right to work. 

Reddy moved to Chicago, Illinois, and began singing in local bars, including Mister Kelly's.  In 1968, Helen signed a recording contract with Fontana Records, a division of Mercury. 

But soon, Reddy and her husband Jeff relocated to Los Angeles, where he got a job at Capitol Records.  Jeff made phone call after phone call to executive Artie Mogull to try to boost his wife's career.  Finally, Mogull agreed to let Helen record a song if Jeff promised not to call.

Reddy recorded "I Believe In Music" b/w "I Don't Know How To Love Him".  The "A" side went nowhere, but disc jockeys flipped the single over and discovered the hit.  "I Don't Know How To Love Him" went to #2 in Australia, #8 in Canada, and #13 in the United States, and Reddy's career finally was off the ground.

Reddy could now record an album of full material (I Don't Know How to Love Him), which went Gold.  Her self-titled release was not as successful, though it did contain the #8 Adult hit "Crazy Love".

Her real breakthrough came in 1972, when the title song from her album I Am Woman took off, becoming a female anthem.  The single went to #1 in both the U.S. and Canada, and #2 in Australia, and earned Reddy the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, while the album was certified Platinum.

Reddy was high in demand for television variety and talk shows, and she appeared on The Carol Burnett Show, The Bobby Darin Show, and The Muppet Show, among others.  In 1973, she hosted The Helen Reddy Show, a summer replacement series for The Flip Wilson Show that year.  Helen also became the semi-regular host of the popular show The Midnight Special, which she continued to do until 1975.

In 1973, Reddy released the third of seven albums in a row to go Gold, Long Hard Climb.  The single "Delta Dawn" was #1 on both the Popular and Adult charts in the U.S., and #1 in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. 

The album contained another huge hit--"Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)".  It rose to #1 on the Adult chart and #3 overall in the United States, while achieving #1 in Australia, #4 in New Zealand, and #5 in Canada.

The following year, Helen released a tribute to her husband, the Gold album Love Song for Jeffrey.  The single "Keep On Singing" gave Helen her third consecutive #1 Adult song, and was #15 overall in the U.S. and #10 in Canada.

The album produced another Top 10 single, "You And Me Against The World", featuring daughter Traci reciting the spoken bookends of the song.  It was yet another #1 Adult song for Reddy that reached #9 overall in both the United States and Canada.

The Gold album Free and Easy later in the year ran Reddy's streak to five straight #1's on the Adult chart with the song "Angie Baby".  The single was also the overall #1 in the U.S., #3 in Canada, and #8 in New Zealand.

Reddy starred in the movie Airport 1975, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer--Female.  The single "Emotion" also went to #1 on the Adult chart, giving Helen an incredible six chart-toppers in a row.

"Bluebird", from the 1975 album No Way to Treat a Lady, ended that streak, although it did hit #5 on the Adult chart.  But Reddy was right back to the top with her next single, "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady", a song which also reached #2 in Canada and #8 overall in the United States.

By this time, Reddy was a headlining act, performing to standing-room-only crowds on The Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Opening acts included Barry Manilow and Joan Rivers.  The single "Somewhere In The Night" became a bigger hit for Manilow two years later, but Reddy's version reached #2 on the Adult chart and #19 overall.

In 1976, Reddy released the album Music, Music, which also went Gold.  The single "I Can't Hear You No More" topped the Adult chart, but peaked at #29 overall. (Click on the "Play" icon in the top left-hand portion of the video...)

The next year, Reddy released the album Ear Candy.  Although it became her first album in five years not to go Gold, it did contain the hit "You're My World", #5 on the Adult chart and #18 overall.

Reddy released five more singles and two albums in the decade, but she would never make the Top 10 again.  She continued to star in movies, and in the mid-80's, expanded into theatre, appearing on musicals including Anything Goes, Call Me Madam, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Reddy retired from live performances in 2002 and became a clinical hypnotherapist and motivational speaker.  Reddy decided to return to performing in 2011.

Helen scored 20 hits on the Popular chart in the decade, of which six went Top 10 and three reached #1.  Among adults, she was one of the dominant performers of the Seventies, with 23 hits, with an incredible 15 Top 10 songs and 8 #1's.  She sold 6.5 million albums in the U.S. alone.

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