Helen Reddy, what an iconic showwoman! Finding fame in the 70s and early 80s with her take on many cover songs plus her own self-penned hits. She’s 70s pop superstar royalty. With 40 albums to her credit, she reveled in the limelight and catapulted herself into stardom with her 1972 song of the year, “I Am Woman.”
Helen was an Australian Songstress born in Melbourne on October 25th, 1941. She was born into the Reddy family, who were already deeply immersed in the world of showbiz. Helen followed in the family’s footsteps and began performing at the very young age of 4. She has wowed audiences with her talents ever since.
So, let’s now explore the magical world of singer, songwriter, actress, author, and activist, through the Best Helen Reddy Songs of All Time.
- Helens Big Break
- Top 10 Best Helen Reddy Songs of All Time
- Looking for more great songs from inspiring women?
- Best Helen Reddy Songs of All Time – Final Thoughts
Helens Big Break
In 1966 at the age of 25, she performed on American Bandstand, a televised talent contest; and triumphed over everyone! Her prize saw her whisked off to New York for a highly sought-after record audition.
Even though nothing came of this exciting opportunity, Helen felt that showbiz stateside was her calling. So she subsequently moved to New York, then Chicago, and then settled in Los Angeles to pursue her dreams.
In her first few years in the States, she met her husband and manager, Jeff Wald. She saw the release of her debut single “One Way Ticket” in 1968 through Fontana Music. This song succeeded in the Australian music scene, reaching No. 68 on the Aussie charts but doing nothing in the US.
Then finally, 1971 saw the release of her first studio album, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” with Capitol Records. This album and her huge hit “I Am Woman” is what shaped her into the infamous pop icon she became in the 70s.
Starting at number 10, let’s take a journey back over this talented artist’s greatest recording accomplishments.
Top 10 Best Helen Reddy Songs of All Time
From her 1974 album “Love Song For Jeffrey.” Helen’s interpretation and performance of this traditional love ballad was not as it was originally composed. Kenny Ascher and Paul William wrote it as that of a woman’s love for a man.
However, Helen turned the song on its head and instead sang of a mother’s love for her child. A great success on the charts, finding the 9th spot on the US Hot 100 and the 4th number one hit for Helen on the U.S Adult Contemporary in 1974.
Next up in my compilation of the Best Helen Reddy Songs of All Time a song from Jesus Christ Superstar. It was the album by this very same title that blew Helen into her fantastic career. It’s a sad story of confused, perhaps even unrequited love and was the pinnacle of the stage show’s storyline and Helen’s success.
From Helen’s first-ever studio album and released in 1971, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” it peaked at position 15 on the US Hot 100 and rivaled Yvonne Elliman’s version, which was charting at the same time.
One of her lesser-played hits, it’s a beautiful song about being on the run from a potentially bad situation and finding a peaceful place thereafter.
It’s crazy to wrap our heads around, especially in our current musical climate. But back in the 70s, it was very common for different versions of the same song to be released as singles or on albums and chart around the same time! “Somewhere In The Night” did just that, with no less than four versions circulating from mid-1975 – early 1976.
With renditions from our songstress Helen, Barry Manilow, Batdorf and Rodney, and the gorgeous voice of Yvonne Elliman, it comes as no surprise as to which was the most successful version. Reaching No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary Chart, and it was from the acclaimed vocalist we are celebrating here, Helen Reddy.
It’s a song about a Southern Belle whose future was in question after she got involved with a farmhand in Tennessee. With her virtue in disrepair after this perilous adventure. Ruby is suffering at the hands of the townfolk with their judgments and also internally with her own feelings.
A bit repetitive…
It’s on record that Helen wasn’t the biggest fan of the song lyrics. Especially the repetitive nature of the chorus where the titled phrase ‘leave me alone’ appears no less than 43 times!
There was even a competition on the radio that covered the whole nation. Fans could call into their local radio station and guess the number of times she sings those exact lyrics. The entries with the correct answer then went into a pool to win a trip for two to one of Helen Reddy’s amazing, sold-out live shows.
This stellar song is an original by Harriet Schock. The tale first took shape on a plane ride from Las Vegas to LAX and was lyrically born on a napkin! Harriet had finally ended things with her selfish lover for the last time, and a great song ensued.
Helen released her version in 1975. It’s the first song from her 7th studio album of the same title and claimed her seventh Adult Contemporary No. 1 spot.
The song is about a girl named Angie, who is obsessed with music. She begins to live her life through the Rock and Roll station she is forever listening to on the radio. Her bedroom is her sanctuary, where she is free to do this at her pleasure.
Then a neighborhood boy comes to inflict harm on Angie. As he enters her room, he is somehow sucked up both into her reality and her radio. Never to be seen or heard of again.
Let the fans decide…
It was penned by Alan O’Day, and according to Wikipedia, it took him three months to write. It’s a song that is very much open to the listener’s own interpretation. It’s been noted that Helen had never voiced her own opinion as to what the song is all about, as she loved to hear her fan’s interpretations.
“Angie Baby” reached No. 1 in Dec of 1974 for a week on both US Billboards Adult Contemporary and Hot 100 Charts. It was a song Helen never had to push the radio stations to play.
This is another cover originally sung by Austin Roberts in 1973. Written by Danny Jannsen and Bobby Hart, it’s a song about hardships as a child and the plight of losing loved ones.
“Keep On Singing” is from Helen’s 5th studio album, “Love Song For Jeffrey.” It was the album’s most successful song reaching 15th position in the Hot 100. Then went on to spend two weeks at No. 1 on the U.S Adult Contemporary Chart.
Next in my rundown of the Best Helen Reddy Songs of All Time is “Delta Dawn,” a song penned by Alex Harvey and Larry Collins. It’s about a washed-up Southern Belle who did unreputable damage to her reputation when she fell in love with a man from the wrong side of the tracks.
Harvey penned the song about his mother, who had tragically died from an apparent suicide after an alcohol-driven single-car crash. Where she totaled her car into a tree. Harvey was but a teen and had carried the pain of this around for years. So it was cathartic to write this song and let the guilt fade.
It all came about after his mother appeared to him as an apparition at a party. He began to write the song and came up with the lyrics ‘Now 41; she wanders the streets of Brownsville searching for her lost love’. He quickly woke up his mate Larry and together, they finished the song in 20 mins.
“Delta Dawn” was first sung by a very young Tanya Tucker in 1972, and Bette Midler also had a version recorded. However, it wasn’t until 1973 and Helen Reddy’s award-winning version that the song really found favor with audiences.
In August of 1973, we saw “Delta Dawn” reach No. 1 on the official Billboards Adult Contemporary chart. It stayed there for two weeks and was on the charts for 16. Whilst on the Hottest 100, it was charting for 20 weeks. Then again, “Delta Dawn” reached the No. 1 spot for a week in Sept of the same year.
This is most definitely Helen Reddy’s number one Best Song of All Time. Even though it wasn’t her biggest hit on the official charts, it remains her most iconic and successful song ever.
It’s a masterpiece advocating for strong and able women the world over. “I Am Woman” took its rightful place as the coveted No. 1 place on the Billboard Charts on the 9th Dec 1972. Unbelievably it only held the top spot for one week but was in the charts for a further 22 weeks.
A message of strength…
“I Am Woman” spoke to millions of women everywhere with its lyrics about women’s strength and capabilities. In 2013 Helen spoke of how she penned the song as a tribute to the strong women in her life.
As she told the Chicago Tribune, “There were a lot of songs on the radio about being weak and being dainty and all those sorts of things. 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.”
So as there wasn’t a song around that represented these things, she wrote it! With that being said, it’s no wonder it became the unofficial ‘Anthem’ for the Women’s Liberation Movement.
This great tune saw Helen take home her first Grammy Award win for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 15th Grammy Awards held in Nashville, Tennesse. A lot of her success came from well interpreted and even better sung covers. It’s amazing to know that “I Am Woman” was written by Helen Reddy herself, and she is so deserving of that accolade!
In 2019, Screen Australia released a biographical film also called “I Am Woman” starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Helen Reddy. The film is very closely representative of Helen’s life, and sadly she passed just a month after its release. However, it was so touching to hear that they held a private screening for her, her ex-husband, and two kids.
The film got Helen’s first-class stamp of approval and celebrated the life of this amazing woman.
Looking for more great songs from inspiring women?
Then check out our thoughts on the Best Ann Murrey Songs of All Time, the Best Alanis Morrissette Songs of All Time, the Best Mary J. Blige Songs of All-Time, the Best Gloria Estefan Songs of All Time, and the Best Sia Songs of All Time.
Or how about the Best Sarah McLachlan Songs of All Time, the Best Rhianna Songs of All Time, the Best Donna Summer Songs of All Time, the Best Elle Kings Songs of All Time, and the Best Tina Turner Songs of All Time.
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Best Helen Reddy Songs of All Time – Final Thoughts
Helen Reddy contributed some absolute classics to the world of music in her time in the spotlight. She had big success on the Hot 100 but really found her place within the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts. Helen had 24 songs make the list with 15 top 10’s and celebrated her career with eight No. 1 hits.
Her music and vocals are still relevant today, and we see her name on lists such as Billboard’s Greatest Hot 100 Women Artists. (she’s at position 40) And ranked in the top 50 Artists of All Time in the Adult Contemporary Charts. Plus, she’s a Grammy and American Music Awards Winner.
Sadly Helen passed away on September 29, 2020, at the age of 78. But she lives on through songs that are still very relevant today. Five decades on, she will always be remembered for her legendary musical legacy.