Helen Reddy, the Australian activist and powerful voice of the 1972 feminist anthem “I Am Woman,” died Tuesday (Sept. 29), according to a statement from her family. The hitmaker was 78 years old.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved mother, Helen Reddy, on the afternoon of September 29th 2020 in Los Angeles,” her children Traci and Jordan shared via 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.”
Reddy charted 20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart in her lifetime, including three No. 1s: the Grammy Award-winning “I Am Woman” (which she co-wrote with Ray Burton), “Delta Dawn” and “Angie Baby.” She also logged 24 entries on the Adult Contemporary airplay chart, with eight of those topping the list. In 2011, Billboard ranked Reddy as one of the top 50 biggest artists of all time on the Adult Contemporary chart.
“I Am Woman” became the unofficial anthem of the Women’s Liberation Movement, and Reddy said in a 2013 interview that she was just trying to represent the women in her life with the empowering song. “There were a lot of songs on the radio about being weak and being dainty and all those sort of things,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “All the women in my family, they were strong women. They worked. They lived through the Depression and a world war, and they were just strong women. I certainly didn’t see myself as being dainty.”
A biopic about Reddy titled after her signature hit debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, and I Am Woman star Tilda Cobham-Hervey spoke with Billboard at the time about the song’s staying power. “As much as this song is so relevant today, I think it will always be relevant to women,” the actress said. “It’s a really empowering song. It talks about the future and it’s really about bringing people together. I hope it’s a song that’s really inclusive of all people, of all gender identities. I also think that as much as there’s still a long way to go, it’s amazing to look back and see how far we’ve come too. She had to live through a lot of things that I know today I don’t have this struggle with.
Jamie Lee Curtis took to Twitter to remember introducing Reddy at the Women’s March back in January 2017, calling the moment “the honor of my life.”