THE ROAR (Helen Reddy, R.I.P.)

When I was in junior high and high school (1972-78), if a kid came in and told the class “Dad threw a shoe at the TV last night” nobody had to ask who had been on. Not Johnny Rotten, not Mick Jagger, not David Bowie or Alice Cooper or some politician.

The only person who drew that kind of response in my part of the world–the only real threat to order–was Helen Reddy. I always thought that made her the truest rock ‘n’ roller since Elvis. After 1978, my local oldies’ stations did not agree, because they never played her records again and by “never” I mean not once. She was dropped down the memory hole. I’m sure they played her somewhere. Just nowhere I was.

I pity those who missed her. There was no combination of sights and sounds to quite match Ms. Reddy in a bare midriff halter and hip huggers belting “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore” on one TV show after another, so ubiquitous you couldn’t miss her, even at my house, which seldom had a functioning television set.

I assumed she would be a permanent fixture in my generation’s lives. Instead she was kicked to the curb as soon as she stopped being a force on the radio. Some of this may have been by her own design…but surely the larger part of it was due to other forces. The same forces that spent the last forty years screwing up literally everything else.

Nothing damns our present more than memory-holing the feminist who had the best idea of where it all might have gone.

And yet, if I listen close, I still swear I can hear a roar, like a seashell held right next to the ear, intimate and epic in equal measure:


4 thoughts on “THE ROAR (Helen Reddy, R.I.P.)

  1. You manage to continue giving your brethren (and sisteren) great reads, even in the midst of convalescence. I really dig your take on the singer of my kid self’s beloved Pete’s Dragon.

    I sure hope you’re doing well, and that every day’s been better.

    While I’ve got your eyes: You wrote a brilliant piece a couple of years back about the oddly haunting melodic implications in “All Summer Long,” i.e. the sadness within the song’s vibes about summertime ending soon, in spite of the bouncy rhythm, etc. I hope I’m articulating that reasonably well. I can’t find that entry, but I’d love to send the link to a fellow Beach Boys / Brian Wilson fan who I think would really enjoy reading it. Can you toss down some breadcrumbs so I can find it? WHEN you get time, I hasten to add. I know that you haven’t necessarily been having fun all summer long. But here’s to 2021!

    Thank you!

  2. Hey Chris, thanks for the good vibes….Things are still a little sticky but I’m plugging along. Hoping for a reset by the end of the year if not sooner!

    I’m not sure if this is the piece you mean, but it’s the only lengthy piece I’ve done on Brian or the Beach Boys…and I do talk a LOT about Summer (and End of Summer) even if I don’t recall mentioning “All Summer Long” specifically. Hope your friend enjoys it in any case:

  3. That’s the one. Thank you!
    And I share your optimism about you — in fact, just after election day, you’ll emerge fully recovered and blinking in the sunlight, asking something like, “So what was all that about an allegedly new virus or something that you people went through out here?”

    • Funny thing is, when all this started Covid was the first thing people thought I had….I almost wish it had been that simple! But I’ve always drawn strength from thinking about better days ahead and that continues to be the csee!

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