Shuffle Sundays is a weekly feature in which we feature a cover chosen at random by my iTunes shuffle. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All downloads will only be available for one week, so get them while you can.
Helen Reddy was never a songwriter. When she went to record her third album for Capitol Records though, she couldn’t find an appropriate song to express her passion for the burgeoning women’s rights movement.
“I couldn’t find any songs that said what I thought being a woman was about,” she told Sunday Magazine in 2003. “The only songs were ‘I Feel Pretty’ or that dreadful song ‘Born A Woman’. These are not exactly empowering lyrics [quote: “you’re born to be stepped on, lied to, cheated on and treated like dirt. I’m glad it happened that way.”] I certainly never thought of myself as a songwriter, but it came down to having to do it.”
Lying in bed one night in 1971 thinking about her dilemma, one phrase kept running through her head: I am woman. By sunrise that phrase was a full lyric, on its way to becoming both a number-one hit and perhaps the defining song of the feminist movement.
First, though, she asked collaborator Ray Burton to put music to it. Which he did, albeit cynically. “It’s not one of my better songs,” he said in the same Sunday Magazine piece. “I had commerciality in mind because I knew the women’s lib thing was going on. I figured it was a way to make a few bucks.”
Over the last forty years “I am woman, hear me roar” has become a cliché of that “women’s lib thing,” but Reddy has a sense of humor about her big hit. In 1995 during an audience talent show bit on David Letterman, she popped up from the crowd with her signature tune. Again. And again. And again. Dave gets irritated, Nicolas Cage just looks confused.
Atlanta pop-folkies Big Fish Ensemble met in the Indigo Girls’ backing band, so despite the fact that the vocals are distinctly Y-chromosome the sentiment is sincere. Oom-pah tuba meets marching-band snare for a girl power anthem so inclusive it’s got the fellows doing it too.
Big Fish Ensemble – I Am Woman (Helen Reddy) [Buy]
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