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Helen Reddy
, 1978

by Rennie Ellis

type C photograph (sheet: 63.3 cm x 50.6 cm, image: 43.9 cm x 29.3 cm)

Helen Reddy (b. 1941), singer songwriter, was born in Melbourne, where she began performing on stage with her parents at the age of four. After wining a talent contest on the television music show Bandstand she moved to the USA in 1966. Twenty-seven music labels rejected her before she signed with Capitol Records in 1970, but over the course of the decade she was to achieve fourteen US Top 40 singles including three number ones. Her best known song is the anthem for women's liberation, I am Woman, inspired by Australian feminist and rock journalist Lillian Roxon. With more gold records at the time than any other female artist except Barbra Streisand, at the height of her fame in the late 1970s Reddy headlined with a full chorus of backup singers and dancers to standing-room-only crowds on the Las Vegas Strip. Photographer Rennie Ellis visited her at home in California to gather material for his documentary Australian Music to the World. He found her 'friendly and unpretentious and proudly Australian' as well as more attractive than she looked in her pictures. She told Ellis 'When I was in my early 20s I thought I could change the world - now I realise what a mammoth job it is just to change me.'

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2006
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive
Accession number: 2006.57