Helen Reddy’s signature song, “I Am Woman,” climbed back onto the music charts following her death at age 78. Hours after the Australian-born music pioneer passed away in Los Angeles, her 1972 feminist anthem climbed to the No. 2 spot overall on iTunes, just under Why Don’t We’s single, “Fallin’.”
Co-written by Reddy and Ray Burton, “I Am Woman” became an immediate theme song for the women’s liberation movement when it was released nearly 50 years ago as an expression of the singer’s longing for female empowerment.
Reddy won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single in 1973, and she also performed the hit at the ceremony, per The Associated Press.
Reddy later admitted that the success of “I Am Woman” was one of the reasons she retired from singing. After being shown an American history high-school textbook that included her name and lyrics in a chapter on feminism, she realized she had peaked.
“Well, I’m part of history now. And how do I top that?” she told the AP.
During her 1970s heyday, Reddy recorded 15 top 40 hits, with “I Am Woman,” “Delta Dawn” (1973), and “Angie Baby”(1974) all hitting No. 1 three years in a row.
Her singles “You and Me Against the World,” “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)” and “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady” — the latter of which scored her a second Grammy nod in 1976 — all also made the Top 10, per The New York Times.
While it was one of her biggest hits, many fans were confused by the origins of “Delta Dawn,” as teen singer Tanya Tucker also recorded a version of the tune around the same time Reddy did. In an interview, with Classic Bands, Reddy said there was room for both women to have chart-topping success with it.
“I think Tanya’s a great singer,” Reddy said. “I don’t think there’s any conflict. She has a country audience, and they’re extremely loyal to her. I have more of a pop audience, and I’m happy that we were both able to have a hit with the song.”
The day after her death, Reddy’s 1971 cover of Jesus Christ Superstar’s“I Don’t Know How To Love Him” also made a surprise return to the charts as nostalgic fans clamored to download her large catalog of music. In addition, the compilation album Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits (And More) jumped to No. 4, just below Carrie Underwood’s newly released Christmas album and Machine Gun Kelly’s Tickets to My Downfall.