Mac Davis. Helen Reddy. The blank stares I'm getting from that row suggest they may not have lived through the 1970s. I did. I have the bell bottom scars on my ankles to prove it. These two singer-songwriters passed away this past week within hours of one another, both of them at the age of seventy-eight. If you have missed this chunk of musical history, let's toss out a primer: "Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me" may have been Mister Davis' best known tune. You may have caught him singing that one on The Midnight Special. Or maybe I should explain to you about The Midnight Special. Or Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.
But that's not why we're here today. We also have to recognize Helen Reddy, she of "I Am Woman." She was on The Midnight Special too. My mother was proto-liberated, and she had a subscription to Ms. Magazine and we listened to Helen Reddy albums. And we liked it. My father was particularly enamored with "Delta Dawn," as it struck him solidly in his gospel-loving nerve. Helen was perhaps the first Australian of which I was aware, probably because she also had her own variety show. A little song, a little dance, a little Cheech and Chong.
What? Cheech and Chong on NBC? This is a show that also featured Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra. This was the 1970s. Along about this same time, Mac Davis had his own show too. His could also be found on NBC. Mac's guests included such luminaries as Loretta Swit, Gabe Kaplan, and Helen Reddy.
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, the only song I could think of was Helen Reddy's feminist anthem. I was there when it happened.
Mac wasn't a one trick pony either. His turn as star quarterback Seth Maxwell in North Dallas Forty was both funny and tragic. That was in 1979. By 1982, he was talked into playing Robert Redford's role in the sequel to The Sting, imaginatively titled, The Sting II. Teri Garr was featured in most of the promos for the movie, so it could be that Mac's days at the top were coming to an end.
Ms. Reddy starred in the Disney feature Pete's Dragon, and scored a hit with the featured song, "Candle On The Water." That was in 1977. Six years later, her recording contract was up at MCA and she returned to the Land Down Under.
So they both burned brightly, for a while, as stars often do. They made a mark that won't soon be erased from my ears and heart. They stomped on the Terra. In bell bottoms. And they will both be missed. Aloha, Mac and Helen.