Helen Reddy had quite the life before 1972 sent her career into overdrive. She performed vaudeville with her parents in her native Australia, singing and dancing throughout her teenage years, and then immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s to make it as a solo star.
It didn’t take long before she signed to Capitol Records, the label which helped her achieve stardom, along with a trio of No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, most notably her feminist anthem “I Am Woman.”
The singer, songwriter and activist died Tuesday (Sept. 29) in Los Angeles at age 78, according to a statement from her family.
Reddy notched 20 career entries on the Hot 100, between 1971 and 1981. She first appeared on the chart dated Feb. 20, 1971, with “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” a cover of Yvonne Elliman’s single from the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar that was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Reddy’s version went on to reach No. 13 nearly four months later, cementing her status as an up-and-comer and resulting in a long-term deal with Capitol.
The following year, her career reached even higher levels, as “I Am Woman” topped the Hot 100 dated Dec. 9, 1972. (Partly reflecting the song’s legacy, its message would resurface in Katy Perry’s 2013 No. 1 “Roar,” which approximates the “I am woman / hear me roar” lyric in Reddy’s composition, which she wrote with Ray Burton).
Reddy hit No. 1 again with “Delta Dawn” for a week in September 1973 and with “Angie Baby” for a week in December 1974. Upon the latter’s coronation, she tied the then-record for most No. 1s among solo women, sharing the honor with Cher, Roberta Flack and Connie Francis. At the time, the only soloists with more No. 1s were Elvis Presley, Bobby Vinton and Stevie Wonder.
Among Reddy’s 20 total Hot 100 entries, six reached the top 10. Here’s a look at her biggest Hot 100 hits:
Rank, Title, Peak Position, Peak Date
1. “Delta Dawn,” No. 1, Sept. 15, 1973
2. “I Am Woman,” No. 1, Dec. 9, 1972
3. “Angie Baby,” No. 1, Dec. 28, 1974
4. “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress),” No. 3, Dec. 29, 1973
5. “You and Me Against the World,” No. 9, Sept. 7, 1974
6. “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady,” No. 8, Oct. 11, 1975
7. “Peaceful,” No. 12, May 5, 1973
8. “You’re My World,” No. 18, July 23, 1977
9. “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” No. 13, June 5, 1971
10. “Somewhere in the Night,” No. 19, Feb. 14, 1976
Helen Reddy’s biggest Billboard Hot 100 hits are based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 through the chart dated Oct. 3, 2020. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, certain eras are weighted to account for different chart turnover rates over various periods.
Reddy was also successful on Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary radio airplay chart, scoring eight No. 1s among 15 top 10s and 24 total entries. As she earned all her No. 1s between 1973 and 1976, she was to that point tied for the most leaders among soloists, with John Denver and Olivia Newton-John.
Looking at Reddy’s album history, she charted 10 titles on the Billboard 200, including three top 10s: 1973’s Long Hard Climb (No. 8), 1974’s Free and Easy (No. 8) and 1975’s Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits (No. 5). Her albums have earned a combined 862,000 equivalent album units in the Nielsen Music/MRC Data era (1991-present).