In 1968, she met her future husband and manager, Jeff Wald, who was handling such acts as Tiny Tim, Deep Purple and The Turtles. They eventually persuaded Capitol Records to let her record one single. The intended A-side flopped, but the B-side—a cover of "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar—made it to No. 13 on the Billboard charts in June 1971.
Her biggest success came a year later: the anthemic "I Am Woman," which resonated with audiences worldwide in the midst of the women's liberation movement in the U.S. It became a smash the same year that the Equal Rights Amendment passed the Senate and when Shirley Chisholm ran for president. The Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade just a month after "I Am Woman" reached No. 1.
In a 2014 interview with Houston Public Media, Reddy explained that the phrase "I am woman" came to her and just wouldn't leave. "Over and over," she recalled, "'I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.' And I thought, well, this has to be a song."
She wrote the lyrics, songwriter Ray Burton penned the music, and Jeff Wald talked Capitol into letting her release it. In an NPR interview about "I Am Woman," Wald said that a label executive dismissed the whole enterprise.
"'That women's lib crap is gonna kill her,' " Wald recalled the label as saying. "'Why are you letting your wife do this stuff?'"
Still, they persevered. Wald himself took the song to a small radio station on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., knowing that the area was filled with women working pink-collar jobs. And "I Am Woman" struck a chord with those listeners. The station was soon inundated with requests to hear it again.
Slowly—with Wald promoting the song market by market—the song became a hit. By Dec. 1972, it was No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and Reddy took home a Grammy. At the awards ceremony, Reddy thanked God, saying: "Because She makes everything possible."
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