You probably haven’t heard much from ’70s pop superstar Helen Reddy lately, unless, that is, you’ve been to Australia in the last decade and needed to see a clinical hypnotherapist or went to hear a motivational speaker.
You see, Reddy decided to step down from singing following a live performance in 2002 and didn’t think she’d ever do it again. She even announced that she would “never again perform before an audience,” telling people she had moved on.
“I went back to college and got a degree in clinical hypnotherapy and neurolinguistic programming and I did that for a while,” Reddy said. “I’ve gone back to study a particular subject several times. I love knowledge. I’m an avid reader. I also have been pursuing genealogy.”
The problem with her plan was that people loved her songs and wanted to hear her sing. Reddy was constantly dealing with people who tried to cajole her to get back in the biz, but she went about her new path.
“I was not singing at all,” Reddy said. “The thing I missed the most was that glorious feeling when a note comes up from your diaphragm and comes out through your voice.”
Things changed in 2012 when Reddy’s sister turned 80 and she asked the singer for a birthday gift of a song. Reddy obliged, those at the party were floored, and everyone knew that the singer had to come out of retirement.
“I had not heard my voice in 10 years and hearing my voice come over the speakers, it was like, ‘Wow, that’s me, isn’t it?’” Reddy said. “Plus, after 10 years, boredom set in and so many of my fans were saying, ‘Please, please, please come back to work,’ so that’s what I’m doing.”
Reddy gathered some of her old band mates and decided to head out for a monthlong tour and say goodbye to retirement. Now back on tour, Reddy will head to the Barns at Wolf Trap for two shows, on Thursday and Friday, playing a selection of her hits, and songs from her vast catalog she has never before performed live.
“One of the reasons that I’m coming back to singing is because I’m not doing the greatest hits,” she said. “I’m doing the songs that I always loved. So many are album cuts that never got any airplay, and they’re gorgeous songs.”
Reddy used to love playing Wolf Trap and is looking forward to coming back all these years later. She promises that her concert philosophy doesn’t mean that the audience won’t hear fan faves such as “I Am Woman” or “Delta Dawn,” but instead of playing all her hits, she is choosing to play some others that mean more to her.
“I could do the entire show of greatest hits, but I would probably die of boredom halfway though,” she said. “I like to mix it up. Old songs, new songs, different kinds of songs, but I will incorporate the songs fans want to hear. I may go to the Great American Songbook and pull out some standards from the 20th century.”
Because she was born into a show-business family, Reddy was doing eight shows a week when she was only five. She toured throughout Australia in a vaudeville act and knew that this would be her life.
When she was 18, Reddy won a talent contest on the Australian pop music TV show “Bandstand,” and won a trip to New York. Once in the states, she decided to stay and tried to make it as a singer. That was 1966. Within five years, she was a household name as “I am Woman” became an anthem to women everywhere and Reddy spent the next four decades being a star.
“There’s been a lot of special occasions through the years — particularly performing at women’s events,” Reddy said. “It was a big thrill to be singing ‘I am Woman’ to 100,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial.”
Although she doesn’t anticipate playing to that large a crowd again, Reddy is happy just to play for those who still appreciate what she does.
“It’s delightful that so many people are still interested in hearing me sing,” she said. “I’m still singing in the same key and the voice is still there and the love of music is still there and hopefully always will be.”