She is Helen: Hear Her Roar

'70s pop icon Helen Reddy discusses "I Am Woman," practicing hypnotherapy, and returning to the stage after a prolonged absence.

By Michael Hardy January 21, 2014

After taking a decade-long hiatus from the music industry to become a practicing hypnotherapist in her native Australia, ’70s pop icon Helen Reddy is returning to the stage later this week at the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall. Reddy remains most famous for her 1972 feminist anthem “I Am Woman,” which was chosen by the United Nations as the official song of The Year of the Woman in 1975. The song has never faded from popular consciousness—Katy Perry’s recent single “Roar” was reportedly inspired by Reddy’s lyrics. In addition to “I Am Woman,” Reddy’s numerous hits include “Delta Dawn,” “Angie Baby,” and her cover of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar. Over the course of a long, successful career, Reddy has also hosted several television shows, appeared in musicals and films, and written a memoir, The Woman I Am. Houstonia spoke with Reddy by phone about her upcoming performance. 

Are you looking forward to your new tour?

Well, it’s not actually a tour. It’s pretty much an isolated date. You know, once in a while I’ll go out and put two or three of them together, but for the most part I don’t do these long tours anymore. They take too much out of me.

I understand you took a break from singing over the past decade.

Yes, I took 10 years off. I only sang if someone needed me to sing "Happy Birthday."

So why did you decide to get back into singing after so much time away?

Well, I was becoming quite bored. My sister had a birthday a couple of years ago, and she asked if I would sing a duet with her for her party. So I said sure—you can’t turn down your older sister! So we both sang “Breezin’ Along with the Breeze.” It was the first time I had heard my voice in ten years, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s not too bad. I should do that some more.’

What does it mean to you to be back on stage and performing in front of large, appreciative audiences?

Everything, everything. That is the most alive part of my life, when I’m out on stage.

When you took your hiatus from the music industry, you became a practicing hypnotherapist, right? 

That’s right, yeah. I got a degree in clinical hypnotherapy, and I moved back to Australia because I had family down there. And I had a very interesting ten years. But it was time to come back and sing again. 

How did you get interested in hypnotherapy?

I’ve been interested in hypnotherapy since I was a young girl. I had an out-of-body experience when I was 11.

What was that like?

Weird. Very, very weird to be up near the ceiling at the back of the room and be looking down at you—seeing your body lying there. And you know it’s you, but you’re not inside that you at the moment. 

How would you treat your patients?

First of all, I can’t call them patients—they’re clients. Because I practice hypnotherapy, I can usually fix whatever the problem is in one session. It’s kind of like you have a glass of beer, and you have all the froth on top. Psychiatrists tend to be poking around in the froth, whereas hypnotherapists take a straw and go straight to the bottom.

What are some common complaints that your clients would come to you with?

If someone came to me with a problem with nail biting, I would refer them to another hypnotherapist, because that’s not what I do. I’m more interested in the psychic side of things—past life regressions, that kind of stuff. I’m able to go down to a deeper level, where they can really mend.

Going back to music, do you ever get sick of singing “I Am Woman”?

No, but I did get very, very sick of singing “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress).” I sing "Leave me alone" 43 times in the song.

Helen Reddy will perform at the Hobby Center on Thursday, January 23 at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.

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