The Short Life and Career of Minnie Riperton



Minnie Riperton is most known for her 70s music era-hit “Lovin’ You” which features her very’ high “whistle register” vocals. Not only has it become an oldies music favorite, it is also a classic ballad for lovers of all ages. The singer with the unique multi-octave range reached the peak of her career with her only #1 single in 1975, which made her a one hit wonder. Unfortunately, her blossoming career was tragically cut short by breast cancer, which claimed her life in 1979.  More on this amazing singer here in this article.

Early life and career

Singer-songwriter Minnie Julia Riperton was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 8, 1947. As a child she studied music, dance and drama at Lincoln’s Center in Chicago and was trained to become an opera singer. But as she was growing up Riperton was becoming interested in soul, R&B, rock and pop.

In 1961 her non-operatic career began when she became the lead singer of the Gems, when she was 15. Despite the Gems never being able to achieve any commercial success on their own, at least it provided an outlet to her unique singing talent. The Gems later became the session group The Studio Three who provided backing vocals for several artists including Fontella Bass’ 1965 hit “Rescue Me.” Riperton was signed to Chess and released her own singles while still working as a session singer.

In 1968 she became the lead singer of the psychedelic soul group the Rotary Connection.

Riperton’s success and fame with “Lovin’ You”

In 1970 Riperton released her debut solo album Come to My Garden on GRT Records. Although it didn’t make it commercially, Come to My Garden has now become a masterpiece.

Success also eluded her band Rotary Connection, who eventually disbanded. She and her husband, composer/record producer Richard Rudolph, took a semi-retirement for two years in Florida before moving to Los Angeles. There, she worked with Stevie Wonder as a member of his backing band Wonderlove.

Riperton’s next album Perfect Angel (1974) was co-produced by Wonder and Rudolph. It contains her biggest hit single “Lovin’ You,” which she co-wrote with Rudolph; it topped the Billboard pop chart in early April 1975, and stayed there for a week. “Lovin’ You” also went to #4 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, #3 on the R&B singles chart and #2 on the UK singles chart.

“Lovin’ You” featured Riperton’s highest “whistle register” voice in the song’s bridge, as well as the chirping of the birds. At year’s end “Lovin’ You” peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The success of the single helped Perfect Angel to land at #1 on the Billboard R&B album chart, and #4 on the Billboard 200. “Lovin’ You” was certainly the highlight of Riperton’s short life and singing career.

Later life and death

The following albums Adventures in Paradise (1975) and Stay in Love (1977) failed to duplicate the successes of “Lovin’ You.”

However, these were becoming the least of Riperton’s concerns. She was facing a bigger and heartbreaking challenge — in 1976 Riperton revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent mastectomy. At the time of her diagnosis, her cancer had already been advanced and spread to other parts of her body.

Riperton was given six months to live. However, she went on to live for three more years. Since her cancer was diagnosed Riperton had become an active voice for other cancer sufferers. She later became a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society from 1978-1979, as well as continued to perform despite her deteriorating condition.

In May 1979 she released her final album Minnie, which contains the single “Memory Lane” which is thought to be her heartbreaking farewell to the world. On July 12 that year, Riperton passed away, aged 31.

The opening lines of her signature song “Lovin’ You,” “Lovin’ you is easy ’cause you’re beautiful” are inscribed in her epitaph.

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