The Big Issue : Edition 531
44 THEBIGISSUE24FEB–9MAR2017 CLICK WORDS BY MICHAEL EPIS » PHOTOGRAPH BY GETTY NEXT EDITION OF THE BIG ISSUE ON SALE ... Helen Reddy and Olivia Newton-John, 1977 10 MARCH (HEAR IT ROAR) OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN would not have been the star she was without her close friend and feminist force Helen Reddy. Reddy herself was destined for the stage, being the precocious child of two performers. In 1966 Reddy, a single mother after an extremely brief marriage, lit out for New York, thinking she had a record contract after winning a TV competition, only to find she didn’t. Nevertheless, she persisted. Six years later she was number one on the US charts with ‘I Am Woman’, whose lyrics she originally penned in 1971. Millions of women were empowered by the stirring anthem – and there’s nothing a movement needs more than an anthem. When she accepted a Grammy Award for it, she thanked God – “because She makes everything possible”. At the time, Reddy was as influential a feminist as Germaine Greer. But it was another Australian who inspired her to write her signature song, the iconoclastic journalist and author Lillian Roxton, her New York friend and the then Sydney Morning Herald foreign correspondent. Reddy knew Olivia Newton-John – and encouraged her to move from England to the US. You can find clips on YouTube of the two duetting. ONJ did move. Reddy soon invited her to a dinner-party for eight. One guest was film producer Alan Carr, who was casting Grease (1978). He had not yet filled the role of Sandy – but by dessert he had. Or so he thought – ONJ, wary after a previous film, Toomorrow, flopped, insisted on a screen test with John Travolta, to see if they had any chemistry. They did. ONJ paid tribute to Reddy on a 2003 episode of This is Your Life. “Without you paving the way, me and the other girls wouldn’t have had a chance... You have been very important in my life.” In this photo the singers are at a 1977 TV tribute to Hubert Humphrey, US vice-president to Lyndon Johnson. Reddy sat at President Jimmy Carter’s table. She was that big. All of which proves that Aussie chicks rock. They are strong (strong). They are invincible (invincible). They are woman.