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April 18, 2013
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Feminist icon hits Grass Valley stage Friday

When most people think of Helen Reddy, one song comes to mind: “I Am Woman.”

Like it or not, the song is a feminist anthem now in history books. During the 1970s, Reddy brought the feminist movement into mainstream popular culture.

“I am in history books. That totally blew my mind. I do represent a generation in a way,” Reddy said in a telephone interview last week.

At 8 p.m. Friday, Reddy will visit Grass Valley during a special Center for the Arts performance in the main stage theater on West Main Street.

“I think it’s a huge deal Helen Reddy is coming to our little town,” said Elisa Parker, co-founder of See Jane Do and the Passion Into Action Women’s Conference.

Parker interviewed Reddy last week for her KVMR radio show, “Music Magazine.” The interview will air sometime between 4 and 6 p.m. Thursday (April 18).

“Initially when she set out to write (‘I Am Woman’), she didn’t envision the magnitude of enthusiasm the song would create from fellow activists. Reddy’s work demonstrates to all of us the importance of sharing your voice and to stand in your power and truth as a woman …

“Hopefully she’ll inspire the next generation to get involved and get engaged,” Parker said.

Other women from Nevada County remember Reddy’s music and the impact it had on a generation.

“She was a pioneer,” reflected Jean Gilbert a Nevada City resident familiar with Reddy’s songs.

“She was a strong role model for girls in the ’70s. She had that strong, clear, powerful voice that I liked,” Gilbert said.

‘“I am Woman’ is about the awakening and expansion of the feminine spirit - something this world desperately needs,” said local singer Lea Hume, who remembers hearing the song as a young girl.

Reddy is known for her string of 15 Billboard Top 40 songs. She was the first from her native Australia to win a Grammy and the first Australian to win an American Music Award for favorite Pop Rock Female artist.

Reddy, an Australian native, returned to U.S. concert halls last year after a quiet decade away from the stage. Tired of singing “Leave Me Alone” 40 times in one song, Reddy retired to her home country in 2002 to practice as a clinical hypnotherapist and motivational speaker.

To an outsider, hypnotherapy and stage performing appear as drastically different worlds, but Reddy says a common thread weaves through both — her desire to help people.

“I think it does overall look at the power of music. Music is the song of life,” she said.

While singing a duet at her older sister’s 80th birthday party, Reddy realized she missed singing. So, she came back to the states and spent four weeks on the road touring last October.

“After a 10-year hiatus, I’m back doing what I love, singing good songs in good clubs and loving every minute of it,” Reddy said.

During her 1970s fame, Reddy recalls how recording companies pressured her to produce a hit.

“Pop stuff” isn’t her “musical bag,” said the artist who prefers jazz and blues tunes. These days, she has control over the songs she sings for others and likes it that way.

“I provide good songs, well-written songs, songs that say something,” she said.

She says she chooses songs with meaning, songs that people can relate to and songs that tell stories, such as one of her earliest recordings, “Angie Baby.”

When people listen to Reddy’s music at the upcoming Grass Valley concert, they will hear album cuts that didn’t get a lot of airplay.

Reddy has been singing since she was a young girl, as part of a well-known show business family in Melbourne. She scored big in 1971 with her hit cover, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” the ballad from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

She was ubiquitous during that decade both on radio and television and appeared on “The Carol Burnett Show,” her own series, “The Helen Reddy Show,” and in movies such as “Airport ’75,” and Walt Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon.”

As a solo concert artist, Reddy has played at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center in New York and in London at the Royal Albert Hall and the Palladium. Reddy was the first Western female performer invited to sing in the People’s Republic of China, she has dined with the prince of Wales and danced in the White House with the President of the United States. In Holland, there is a tulip named after her.

Now living in Los Angeles, Reddy says she is enjoying the performance life again and looks forward to her show in Grass Valley.

“I love having that contact with the audience,” she said.

For information, visit http://helenreddy.com

Contact freelance writer Laura Brown at laurabrown323@gmail.com or 401-4877.


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The Union Updated Apr 18, 2013 12:18AM Published Apr 18, 2013 12:18AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.