HELEN REDDY – 1971-1981

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Keep on Singing (B Hart/D Janssen) and You and Me Against the World (K Ascher/P Williams) – Helen Reddy – 1974

In mid-1974 Helen released her sixth album A Love Song for Jeffrey, which was a musical love letter to her then-husband and manager Jeff Wald, and dedicated to her mother Stella Lamond, father Max Reddy and aunt and namesake Helen Reddy Snr. who had all passed away in the previous twelve months. Her close friend Lillian Roxon had also passed away in August 1973, so this was a period of intense grieving and personal loss for Helen.

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The single Keep on Singing, written by Bobby Hart and Danny Janssen, was lifted off the album and climbed to #15 in the US and #22 locally, the lyrics of the song depict a young girl who has been raised in a struggling show business family, and has to perform to support her aging father who is dying, the sentiment of the song would have clearly resonated with Helen at this time in her life.

Bobby Hart co-wrote the song and he would become half of the singing/songwriting duo of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (below left to right Boyce and Hart), who had hits with Alice Long, and I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight, and also wrote Last Train To Clarkesville for the Monkees.

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The second single release was You and Me Against the World, written by the ace songwriting team of jazz pianist Kenny Ascher who had written songs for Barbra Streisand and Meatloaf, and singer/songwriter Paul Williams who had composed songs for the Carpenters, it was one of Helen’s favorite songs and became a live performance highlight.

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Helen felt emotionally connected to the song, it had a haunting melody and the lyrics were timeless, but William’s words were written as a man-to-woman love song and she noted that there was a paternalistic attitude inherent in the lyrics, which would not work with a simple gender change to accommodate a female singing the song.

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Reddy sensed that the original intent of the lyrics could be preserved if the song was delivered as a parent-to-child love song, producer Tom Catalano (above) agreed, and suggested that to heighten the emotional connection, Reddy’s daughter Traci should speak at the intro and outro of the recording, it worked perfectly, the record became a #9 US hit and continued Helen’s stellar run through 1973-74.

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Traci’s ( above with Helen) spoken word opening “Tell me again Mommy…” leads into the first verse “You and me against the world/ Sometimes it seems like you and me against the world/ When all the others turn their backs and walked away/You can count on me to stay.” The lyrics resonated particularly with single mothers and women enduring domestic abuse and trying to protect their children, something that Helen would have to do in the future.

Helen Reddy performing her hit You and Me Against the World on the Glenn Campbell Show.

Reddy has revealed in her biography that during this period there were several songs that she turned down that became hits for others, these included Killing Me Softly with His Song because of the title, Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue, because she didn’t have brown eyes, and I Honestly Love You, because the song was about infidelity and she was married to a jealous Jeff Wald.

At this time Helen made the decision to become an American citizen, she and her daughter Traci had lived in the States for eight years, she was married to an American and her second child, son Jordon had been born in America, the Australian press treated her actions as tantamount to treason. She was also criticized for supporting Frank Sinatra on the Johnny Carson Show in America during his ill-fated tour of Australia in 1974, when he famously referred to Australian reporters as “hookers”, and Bob Hawke had to persuade airplane refuelers to service his plane so that he could return to the US. Helen would continue to have hits outside Australia after 1974 but chart success was limited in her home country after these events, Reddy did subsequently take out dual American-Australian citizenship once this became possible, and returned to Australia in her retirement.

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