Helen Reddy is ready -- for a return to her fans.
The Australian born, Grammy Award-winning pop artist, now 71, reached superstardom in the 1970s with such chart-topping hits as "I Am Woman," "Angie Baby" and "Delta Dawn." And she is now in the middle of her first nationwide concert tour after being out of show business for more than a decade.
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Reddy recently spoke with the Daily Herald about her long break from performing, her March 13 show at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles and the news about one of her songs that made her cry for days.
Q. How does it feel to be heading back onstage -- going back on a nationwide tour -- after more than 10 years?
A. It's great. It's like this is where I belong.
Q. What made you decide to leave show business 11 years ago?
A. I was tired. I had been working very hard. I was just beyond physical endurance. I ended up going to Australia to see my sister and my friends, and I stayed there for 10 years.
Q. Tell us about the upcoming show at the Arcada Theatre.
A. It's a mixed bag. I will do a lot of my hits. But I will also be singing a lot of songs I love that I recorded years ago that didn't get any airplay. Back in the top-40 days, the radio stations only played the top 40 songs, and that was it. So this is a chance for me to sing some of the album cuts -- really good songs. But I promise you I won't be singing "Leave Me Alone."
Q. Why is that?
A. Have you heard the lyrics to "Leave Me Alone?" It's "Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone ..."
Q. Do you ever mind meeting with fans who recognize you?
A. Oh, no. I have fans that have driven hundreds of miles to see me in person. Some of these people I still see today. I have very devoted fans. They do say some funny things at funny times though. Once at an airport, I had someone rush up to me and say, "Do you know who you are?" Another time, someone came up to me and said, "You're my biggest fan!"
Q. Did you ever think that the song "I Am Woman" (which Reddy co-wrote with Ray Burton) would become an anthem of sorts for feminism?
Q. Lyrics for "I Am Woman" have been now put into some high school history textbooks. What did you think when you learned about this?
A. A fan of mine -- who has become a very good friend -- showed up at my door with one of the textbooks to show me. The words to "I Am Woman" were right there in the book. I cried for three days. I was so moved, because that made me a part of history. There are a lot of singers that come and go ... but to be a part of history. Sometimes I just recite the words to "I Am Woman" (rather than singing them) at a concert. The lyrics are so dynamic that reciting them really gives the song more force.
Q. What do you do in your time off?
A. What's that? (Reddy laughs). Well today, I am going to get my housework done. I have a new broom. Actually, I am an avid reader. I like to read nonfiction. I like history and biographies. I also love genealogy. I am going to be taking a research holiday, as I look into another branch of my family in England. I think I may have uncovered something.
Q. A connection to British royalty?
A. No -- but something historical.
Q. What is your next project after this current tour?
A. My son wants me to make another album. We'll have to see about that. The days of the way we used to record are long gone. Today, you cut tracks and post them on the Internet. So I'll probably be doing some of that. As far as tours, to be honest, tours at my age can be very tiring. I do a long show, and there is the traveling. At the end of the day, I am toast. But being onstage again, well, it feels like home.