I Am Woman

Album: I Don't Know How To Love Him (1971)
Charted: 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Songimage
  • Helen Reddy wrote this when she couldn't find enough songs to include on her first album, I Don't Know How To Love Him. She was looking for songs that reflected a positive self-image that she felt that she had gained from her participation in the women's liberation movement.

    Included on the 1971 album, Reddy didn't like the way this version came out and neither did her producer (he thought she sounded "too butch"), but they put it on the album anyway. Another producer DID like it. Movie producer Mike Frankovitch wanted to use it in his "feminist comedy" Stand Up And Be Counted. Reddy agreed on two conditions: That she would re-record the song, and that he would donate $1000 each to Women's Centers in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles.

    To coincide with the movie's release, the song was issued as a single in 1972, which slowly rose to #1 in America. Reddy's second album was subsequently titled I Am Woman and included this new version of the song.
  • When this song got a makeover in 1972, the arrangement was changed, as were some lyrics ("I can face anything" became "I can do anything"), and a verse was added. These tweaks helped the song become a huge hit.
  • The Australian Ray Burton co-wrote the song with Helen Reddy. Burton's contribution was writing the music to go with Helen Reddy's lyrics and editing her lyrics to fit his musical structure. Burton's other hits have included the songs "Too Hard To Handle" and "Paddington Green." He has performed, toured, and/or recorded with The Who, Billy Joel, Jimmy Webb ("MacArthur Park"), Queen, America, The Spencer Davis Group, Small Faces, Procol Harum, Little River Band, Dave Mason, and Joan Armatrading. He was a founding member of the band Ayers Rock.

    He also worked at LA's world-famous Record Plant, alongside recording-session heavyweights Lee Sklar (bass), Russ Kunkel (drums), and Joe Osborn (bass). He has written music and songs for movies, including Rabbit Run, My Best Friend's Wedding, and Airport 75. He has also written advertising jingles for Coca Cola, Revlon Cosmetics and many other national brand-name products. His catalog includes more than 200 songs.

    "I first wrote the song in August 1970," explained Burton. "It was first released by Capitol Records in late 1970 as an album track on Helen Reddy's first album. It was what they call a 'sleeper' in the music industry. In other words, it sat on the album doing nothing for two years and then as the women's liberation movement gathered momentum, Capitol Records released it as a single. The women's liberation movement then adopted it as their anthem and the rest is history."
  • This song was a cultural touchstone in America, as it underscored the feminist movement. Like the movement, the song proved divisive, generally split along gender lines with women loving the song (or at least appreciating its message) and some men hating it.

    This trope played out in an episode of the TV show Married With Children when the show's patriarch, Al Bundy, enters a state of distress when his wife sings it (Katey Segal, who played the wife, is actually a professional singer - she sang it in a purposefully grating way on the show).

    The song also found its way into an episode of The Simpsons when Homer sings it while dressed as a girl. Other media appearances include the TV shows Doogie Howser, M.D. and Cold Case, and the movies My Best Friend's Wedding and Sex and the City 2.
  • Reddy is Australian, and this song became the first Hot 100 #1 by an Australian-born artist. Some of her other hits include "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)," "Angie Baby," "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" and "Delta Dawn."
  • Burton explained to Songfacts how he - a male - came to co-write one of the leading feminist anthems of all time: "It all started out by me being the only male [that I knew about] ever invited to Helen's get-togethers with her female friends at her house in the Hollywood Hills," he said. "I forget the name of the street now but I remember that it was just off Mulholland Drive and she was married to Jeff Wald at the time. Jeff (her husband/manager) was at his office when these meetings went down. From memory I only ever attended two or three of them. I felt quite out of place among all of these gung ho women's lib females but I could see the commercial potential because these women were SERIOUS! I suggested to Helen that if she felt so strongly about women's rights she should get some words down on paper and I would then take them away and construct a song from them.

    A week or so later she gave me some words written out in part prose, part poetry form on a notepad size piece of paper. I proceeded to write the melody, but during the course of the melody writing I had to delete words here and add words there so that the lyrics fitted my melody rhythmically so as to fall into song form. So I wrote all of the melody and I guess I wrote some of the lyrics as well. But giving credit where credit is due, Helen wrote the majority of the lyrics and I just re-shaped and re-organized them. From the time Helen handed me her words to the completion of the song took me about 12 hours.

    (Helen and I) didn't realize at the time that the song would become so huge a hit. I had a gut feeling about the potential of the song because with my commercial savvy I could sense the women's liberation movement bubbling up and just about ready to come to the boil. I was a couple of years out in my predictions though and it started to happen in 1972.

    When Capitol Records released the song as a single in 1972 to coincide with the Stand Up And Be Counted movie I knew right then that it would always remain Helen's biggest song. When the song hit number one the feeling was amazing! I felt proud as an Australian songwriter trying to conquer the massive American market. I felt that I had finally cracked it for the 'Big Time.'

    Being primarily an R&B, soul, country, rock type singer/songwriter/guitar player, a lot of my peers asked me what the hell I thought I was doing writing a song like that. I would tell them that it was a commercial venture and I was in the business of songwriting not only for the love of the art but to make some respectable money during the standard show business 15 minutes of fame. Here today and gone tomorrow as they say. I would also tell people that the song had nothing to do with my own musical style. It was purely a song written for a lady on a mission and I had my own race to run.

    Hey everyone has a cross to bear and it could be worse right? At least I have a giant hit song under my belt that still gets played 30 plus years later. I get ribbed about it all the time by some of the guys I know but not all of them. The fact is I DO believe in equality for all. I wouldn't mind my own little dose of equality though... Helen refuses to mention me in any of her interviews on TV, on radio or in text, and claims that she wrote the songs. This is incredibly annoying but I DO see her reasoning. It just wouldn't make her look good to her female fans if a male had anything to do with the song; her credibility would be shot down in flames.

    In her new book I am very briefly mentioned as 'a guitarist from Australia.' If you read my biography you will see that I am a lot more than simply 'a guitarist from Australia.' I am a well-known multi-talented musical pioneer, somewhat of a legend in the music industry and highly respected by all of my musical peers. In fact, I have just been made an offer for my song catalogue from a major publishing company and at my age I am very proud of that fact because nobody gets a very long run in this business unless you are considered exceptional. I guess I am destined to keep writing songs 'til I drop. Ha ha."
  • Burton offered the following advice to those who aspire to be professional songwriters: "Don't do it! No seriously you must keep at it, make writing a regular ritual, discipline yourself to do it for a couple of hours every day. If you don't have it already you MUST develop a passion for it or quit now because you are wasting your time. Remember the old adage "practice makes perfect?" Well, it does. It's like anything else, the more you practice it the better you get. Always keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground and be ready to pounce on any new trend that you see developing because it is certain to need a song to go with it. Be like a surfer: you can only ride the wave while it's there, not after it has already gone ashore. If your ship hasn't come in yet, swim out to it. Read a lot and never lose the power of the written word. Don't rely on some other person's visualizations/movies to tell you the story. Create your own mind images in pictures, words and melody, then write them down. Copyright all of your work immediately and get yourself a great music business lawyer. Go fishing alone and think your new ideas through while you are doing it. Write down your affirmations and goals and read them aloud everyday. Practice daily! Of course there are many more songwriting practice rituals and philosophies but here you have a few to get you started." (Thanks to Ray Burton for speaking with us about this song. For more, visit his website at rayburtonmusic.com.)
  • This was replaced at #1 by "Me And Mrs. Jones," a song by Billy Paul about marital infidelity.
  • This was used in commercials for Burger King to promote their Double Whopper sandwich. The song was changed to "I Am Man," and explained that the burger was perfect to satisfy a man's appetite. Here's the clip. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Reddy won the Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for this song. In her acceptance speech, she thanked "God, because She makes everything possible."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 13

  • Ray from Gold Coast, AustraliaGoogle Search: Ray Burton I Am Woman
    http://www.google.com.au/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENAU347&q=i+am+woman+ray+burton&aq=0v&aqi=g-v1&aql=&oq=+i+am+woman+ray+burton
  • Diann from Evansville, InFirst off THANK YOU HELEN REDDY for your strength, hard work and perseverance. I have a friend going through a divorce after 22 years. I sent her this song to remind her of who she is. I said to sing out loud and enjoy being a strong, liberated woman. I reminded her of the days when women and their children were shun by society if they were divorced or single parents. Many women put up with undesirable situations because of the stigma put upon women, many (including myself) weren't encouraged to get an education and couldn't get a decent paying job. Thanks to the many wonderful people like Helen Reddy, I was able to leave an undesirable situation and get a descent paying job and raise two children as a single parent (that was 20 years ago). I find strength in being a strong and invincible woman. No need for anyone (male or female) to be threatened by someone having self-worth.
  • Mike from Matawan, NjMy response to this song? "You're a feminist? That's ADORABLE!!!"
  • Farrah from Elon, NcAlthough I'm not a feminist per say, I think this song is absolutely fabulous.
  • Darrell from EugeneI am Darrell. Hear me roar at Jehovah's Witnesses who come to my door during my whisky-on-the-rocks hour! (My interpretation of the first line of "I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy.)
  • Chris from Saline, MiHelen also pushed some buttons with religious conservatives when she won the Best Female Pop Vocal Grammy in 1973 for "I Am Woman" and, in her acceptance speech, made it a point to thank God "because She makes all things possible."
  • Ray from Gold Coast, AustraliaThank you so much SONG FACTS for revealing the truth. It's about time all of you good people out there knew the truth about the song "I AM WOMAN". Please understand that due to the feminine subject matter of the song I was pushed way into the background. Savvy?
    You can also find out a lot more about me at www.myspace.com/rayburtonmusic if you wish. See you there!

    Many cheers and a beautiful life for everybody,

    RAY CHARLES BURTON

    [Australia - September 2006]
  • Ray from Gold Coast, AustraliaHi, just a brief message from Ray Burton the GUY who co-wrote the song "I AM WOMAN" for Helen Reddy.
    I hope you are doing fine. I just wanted to let you know that my web-sites are coming together.
    There is still work yet to be done on my main site www.rayburtonmusic.com such as adding the showcase page of my demo songs but as I said it IS coming together so please stay tuned from time to time to catch up with the latest RB site developments.
    There are song samples on the RB's Music page of my main site above and also at the My Space site listed below.
    Most musicians that I have worked with in the studio are mentioned on my main site above and those musicians who submitted their web-sites early to RBmusic@bigpond.net.au appear on my links page.
    Check it all out now at www.rayburtonmusic.com you may find my life and career an interesting story.

    Thanks a million and have yourself a great one whatever you are doing.
    Cheers,
    Ray Burton Websites:
    http://www.rayburtonmusic.com

    http://www.myspace.com/rayburtonmusic

    http://www.songwritersdirectory.com/artistpage.cfm?writerid=262
  • Ray from Gold Coast, AustraliaI find it incredible that Helen Reddy chooses never to mention my name as being the co-writer of I AM WOMAN. I suppose for Helen's credibility it just wouldn't look good for a MAN to have had anything to do with this song. So be it! At least all of my peers in the music industry know the truth.

    RAY BURTON
    Rayburtonmusic.com
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhIt must have been getting close to a deadline when Ms Reddy came up with a couplet that I've always admired:

    "But I'm still an embryo
    Wieh a long long way to go"
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaI was too young to recognize the irony at the time, but it wan't uncommon the hear this back to back with 'your havin' my baby'.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnOne of the most memorable songs on the womens lib movement. Fortunately her lyric change catapaulted the song from oblivion to one of the top hits of late 1972 and early 1973 and made Helen Reddy a household name.
  • Ted from Loveland, Cofrom "Helen Reddy's Greatest Hits": EMI ST 11467
    -peak Billboard position # 1 for 1 week in 1972
    -Words and Music by Helen Reddy and Ray Burton

see more comments

Terry Jacks ("Seasons in the Sun")Songwriter Interviews

Inspired by his dear friend, "Seasons in the Sun" paid for Terry's boat, which led him away from music and into a battle with Canadian paper mills.

Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt On How To Create A Music SceneSong Writing

With $50 and a glue stick, Bruce Pavitt created Sub Pop, a fanzine-turned-label that gave the world Nirvana and grunge. He explains how motivated individuals can shift culture.

Songs About MoviesSong Writing

Iron Maiden, Adele, Toto, Eminem and Earth, Wind & Fire are just some of the artists with songs directly inspired by movies - and not always good ones.

Sarah BrightmanSongwriter Interviews

One of the most popular classical vocalists in the land is lining up a trip to space, which is the inspiration for many of her songs.

Chrissie Hynde of The PretendersSongwriter Interviews

The rock revolutionist on songwriting, quitting smoking, and what she thinks of Rush Limbaugh using her song.

Richie McDonald of LonestarSongwriter Interviews

Richie talks about the impact of "Amazed," and how his 4-year-old son inspired another Lonestar hit.