Minnie Riperton (Nov 8, 1947 - Jul 12, 1979) was an American singer who is best remembered for her 1974 hit ballad, Lovin' You.
The tragic 1979 death of 31-year-old Riperton silenced one of soul music's most unique and unforgettable voices - blessed with an angelic five-octave vocal range, she scored her greatest commercial success with the chart-topping pop ballad, "Lovin' You". Riperton was born in Chicago on November 8, 1947. As a young girl, she studied music, drama, and dance at the city's Lincoln Center and later contemplated a career in opera. Her pop career began in 1963 when she joined the local girl group called The Gems (not to be confused with the 60s New York-based girl group Gems, led by Louise Bethune), who were also known at times as The Starlets (1963-1966), signing to the famed Chess label to release a handful of singles as well as lend backing vocals to acts including Fontella Bass, The Dells, and Etta James. After graduating from high school, Riperton went to work at Chess as a receptionist. A year before The Gems' dissolution in 1967, she also signed with the label as a solo act, releasing a single, Lonely Girl, under the alias Andrea Davis (a pseudonym she used in honor of Billy Davis, her mentor at Chess who wrote the song for her).
In 1967, Riperton was installed as the lead vocalist of the psychedelic soul band Rotary Connection, which debuted that year with a self-titled LP on Cadet Concepts. The singles "Amen" and "Lady Jane" found a home on underground FM radio, but the group failed to make much of an impression on mainstream outlets. While still a Connection member, Riperton mounted a solo career. Teaming up with producer/arranger Charles Stepney and her husband/composer Richard Rudolph, she issued her brilliant 1970 debut, Come to My Garden, but again commercial success eluded her. After Rotary Connection dissolved in the wake of 1971's Hey Love, she and Rudolph took a two-year sabbatical in Florida before relocating to Los Angeles, where she sang on Stevie Wonder's Fulfillingness' First Finale and toured as a member of his backing unit Wonderlove.
Wonder agreed to co-produce Riperton's 1974 album Perfect Angel, which included the international blockbuster "Lovin' You". The record made her a household name, although subsequent LPs like 1975's Adventures in Paradise and 1977's Stay in Love failed to repeat its success. By this time, however, commercial woes were the least of Riperton's concerns - diagnosed with breast cancer, she underwent a mastectomy in 1976, later becoming a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and earning a Society Courage Award from then-President Jimmy Carter. Riperton continued performing despite her declining condition, with 1979's Minnie, the final record completed during her lifetime - but died in Los Angeles on July 12 of that year. Unreleased vocal tracks with new instrumental backing constituted 1980's posthumous collection, Love Lives Forever. - Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide
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