Wednesday, September 30, 2020

My Connection to Helen Reddy


Fresh off the heels of the most disastrous Presidential debate in American History, I woke up the next day and learned that Australian-born singer/songwriter Helen Reddy had died.  As a young teenager in the 1970's I remember her song "I am Woman" and how it became a rallying cry for women EVERYWHERE. I became an instant fan of hers' and, to this day, still play my all-time favorite:  That Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady.

But my connection to Helen Reddy goes a little bit deeper.  Early in 2006, I started working on my first book, Whatever! A Baby Boomer's Journey Into Middle AgeIn my final chapter, I wanted to include  lyrics from I am Woman --and create my own song called We are Baby Boomers.  But, in order to use her words verbatim, I had to get her permission since she was the songwriter.  

This is where I learned how good my journalism researching skills were because I had to dig and keep digging some more just to find out how to reach her.  I just assumed she was touring somewhere in the U.S. but, of course, as luck would have it, she would be in her native country without my ability to gain direct access.  So I kept researching until I was able to track down a man named Ray Burton, who I learned played a significant role in collaborating with Reddy on the song.  I also discovered that the original song was published by Irving Music so I found a telephone number for them, reached out and explained what I was trying to do.  I was advised to send a copy of my lyrics with a request of specifically what I wanted to do with them.  

At the time I think I expected they would respond right away, without knowing all that had to take place on their end.  After a month went by I was getting a little discouraged but I was determined not to publish without those lyrics because I felt they were essential to the overall theme of my book.  Well, about three months later, I received a reply giving me permission to use the lyrics and also a request for two autographed copies of my book. Also, in their response was a message saying Ms. Reddy and Mr. Burton both gave their approval.  And, what was even better, I didn't have to pay a royalty fee for the usage (thankfully, because I had just lost my job!)  I remember crying when I read the letter (over and over) and thinking about all that I had gone through and how that moment in time was really orchestrated by a Higher Power.  Not long after receiving permission, I self published my first book.

For those of you who haven't read it, let me share the lyrics I wrote in chapter 6:

We are baby boomers
Hear us roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And we know too much to go back and pretend

And one thing we know for sure
As we're passing through the door
We're never coming back this way again

Oh yes, we are wise
but it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, we've paid the price
But look how much we've gained.

If we have to, we can do anything

Thank you Helen Reddy for your contribution to my life and career.  R.I.P.