Saturday 6 April 2024


Minnie Julia Riperton Rudolph (November 8, 1947 – July 12, 1979) was an American singer-songwriter best known for her 1975 single "Lovin' You" and her four octave D3 to F♯7 coloratura soprano range. She is also widely known for her use of the whistle register and has been referred to by the media as the "Queen of the Whistle Register."

Minnie Riperton grew up in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side. As a child, she studied music, drama and dance at Chicago's Lincoln Center. The youngest of eight children in a musical family, she embraced the arts early. Although she began with ballet and modern dance, her parents recognized her vocal and musical abilities and encouraged her to pursue music and voice. At Chicago's Abraham Lincoln Center, she received operatic vocal training from Marion Jeffery. She practiced breathing and phrasing, with particular emphasis on diction. Jeffery also trained Riperton to use her full range. While studying under Jeffery, she sang operettas and show tunes, in preparation for a career in opera. Jeffery was so convinced of her pupil's abilities that she strongly pushed her to further study the classics at Chicago's Junior Lyric Opera.

The young Riperton was, however, becoming interested in soul, rhythm and blues, and rock. In her teen years, she sang lead vocals for the Chicago-based girl group the Gems. Eventually the group became a session group known as Studio Three and it was during this period that they provided the backing vocals on the classic 1965 Fontella Bass hit "Rescue Me".

After graduating from Hyde Park High School (now Hyde Park Academy High School), she enrolled at Loop College and became a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority. She dropped out of college to pursue her music career.

Her early affiliation with the legendary Chicago-based Chess Records afforded her the opportunity to sing backup for various established artists such as Etta James, Fontella Bass, Ramsey Lewis, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. While at Chess, Riperton also sang lead for the experimental rock/soul group Rotary Connection, from 1967 to 1971.

On April 5, 1975, Riperton reached the apex of her career with her No. 1 single "Lovin' You". The single was the last release from her 1974 gold album titled Perfect Angel. Riperton's third album, Adventures in Paradise was released in 1975. Despite the R&B hit "Inside My Love", some radio stations refused to play "Inside My Love" due to the lyrics.

Her fourth album for Epic Records, titled Stay in Love (1977), featured another collaboration with Stevie Wonder in the funky disco tune "Stick Together".

In 1978, Richard Rudolph and Riperton's attorney Mike Rosenfeld orchestrated a move to Capitol Records for Riperton and her CBS Records catalog. In April 1979, Riperton released her fifth and final album, Minnie. "Memory Lane" was a hit from the album.

Riperton provided backing vocals on Stevie Wonder's songs "Creepin'" from 1974's Fulfillingness' First Finale and "Ordinary Pain" from 1976's Songs in the Key of Life. In 1977, she lent her vocal abilities to a track named "Yesterday and Karma", on Osamu Kitajima's album, Osamu.

In January 1976, Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and, in April, she underwent a radical mastectomy. By the time of diagnosis, the cancer had metastasized and she was given about six months to live. Despite the grim prognosis, she continued recording and touring. She was one of the first celebrities to go public with her breast cancer diagnosis but did not disclose she was terminally ill.

In 1977, she became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. In 1978, she received the American Cancer Society's Courage Award, which was presented to her at the White House by President Jimmy Carter.

Riperton died of cancer on July 12, 1979 at the age 31.

During the 1990s, Riperton's music was sampled by many rap and hip-hop artists, including Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, A Tribe Called Quest, Blumentopf, The Orb and Tragedy Khadafi.

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