I AM WOMAN, STILL ROARING
Helen Reddy was lying in bed, her career going nowhere special, when something remarkable happened.
The lines: ‘I am woman/hear me roar’ popped into her subconscious, words she was convinced were ‘delivered’ to her by a higher force.
Fortunately, she had a notepad handy. The rest is history.
This month marks the 40th anniversary of ‘I Am Woman’, a song that became the anthem of a powerful and vibrant social force — the so-called ‘women’s movement’ — that scared the pants off those who still believed women belonged in the bedroom.
Strong willed and outspoken, Reddy was quite the force herself, the perfect spokeswoman.
‘I Am Woman’ came with a complicated bloodline. Originally recorded in 1971 for Reddy’s second solo album, it was then tapped for a long forgotten film named Stand Up and Be Counted, a Hollywood quickie designed to cash in what the (male) producers dismissed as some passing fad: women’s lib.
Reddy duly re-recorded ‘I Am Woman’ and with the help of some 20 appearances on US daytime TV — Reddy virtually reserved a spot on Dinah Shore’s couch — the song slowly worked its way onto radio playlists. Reddy, however, was a little preoccupied when it finally hit number one; she was giving birth to son Jordan, her second child, at the time.
But Reddy did seize the moment soon after with her famous Grammy speech. ‘I would like to thank God,’ Reddy declared, barely suppressing a grin, ‘because she makes everything possible.’
So what anthems of sisterhood have followed in the wake of ‘I Am Woman’? Did the revolution end in 1972?
Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ may have lacked the emotional wallop of ‘I Am Woman’, but it did capture the early 80s zeitgeist, wherein the modern woman strived to juggle a career and kids. And, in Dolly’s case, what to do once you’ve kidnapped the boss.
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