Chicago’s Legendary Minnie Riperton Sings: Lovin’ You

Chicago’s Legendary Minnie Riperton Sings: Lovin’ You

As a young girl, Minnie Riperton studied music, drama, and dance at Chicago’s Abraham Lincoln Centre, an urban social and cultural center that was originally founded in 1905 as a settlement house in the historic Bronzeville community of Chicago’s South-Side.

As a teenager, she sang lead vocals for a Chicago-based girl group, The Gems. If you listen closely to Fontella Bass’ hit single Rescue Me you can hear the young Riperton, along with The Gems, singing the soulful chorus. Her early connections with the legendary Chess Records in Chicago gave her the chance to sing backup for many other acclaimed performers, including Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters. While with Chess, Riperton also sang for the experimental rock/soul group Rotary Connection from 1967 to 1971. Riperton reached the apex of her short career with her number one hit single, Lovin’ You, in the spring of 1975. The single was the last release from her 1974 gold album Perfect Angel.

In 1976, at the age of of twenty-eight, Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy. In 1977, Riperton became the first African-American woman to serve as spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and to receive the Society’s Courage Award from then-President Jimmy Carter. On Thursday July 12, 1979, at the age of 31, Riperton lost her valiant struggle with cancer. She died peacefully in her husband’s arms while listening to a recording of a song that Stevie Wonder had written for her. Stevie Wonder still considers Minnie Riperton to be one of the greatest singers of our time. In his remarks written about Mariah Carey in Time Magazine’s recent 2008 List of The 100 Most Influential People, Stevie Wonder wrote, “I’ve met only three people who had a truly wonderful voice and spirit to match: my first wife Syreeta, Minnie Riperton and Mariah.”

In addition to her musical legacy, Minnie Riperton is survived by her husband, Richard Rudolph; a son, Marc Rudolph; and a daughter, Maya Rudolph, who has been a cast member of Saturday Night Live.

Minnie Riperton: Lovin’ You

Stevie Wonder’s Tribute to Minnie Riperton: Perfect Angel (1979)

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Chicago’s Historic South Side

Chicago’s Historic South Side

During the 1940s, the South Side of Chicago, and especially the creatively teeming area called Bronzeville, was home to poet Gwendolyn Brooks, playwright Richard Wright and dancer Katherine Dunham.   It also became home for the renowned Delta blues musicians Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, B. B. King, Ruth Brown and Chuck Berry; soul and jazz musicians Sam Cooke, Jerry Butler, and Nat King Cole; entertainers Oscar Brown, Jr., and Sammy Davis, Jr.; and the queen of gospel music, Mahalia Jackson. Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderly, Nancy Wilson, John Coltrane and nearly every great jazz artist came to play there, whether by road tour or for an extended period of time.  Charlie “Yardbird” Parker played his last gig there.  Chicago’s South Side Bronzeville is said by many to be second only to Harlem in providing a legacy of African-American cultural gifts to America and the world.

Chicago’s South Side 1946-1948

Photographer Gordon Parks

Like many African-Americans during the 1940s, the celebrated photographer Gordon Parks really got his big start on the South Side of Chicago. Soon after his arrival in Chicago, Parks began working for the entrepreneurial Marva Louis, wife of the boxer Joe Louis. In a very short period of time, he was exhibiting his photographs at the Southside Community Art Center, located in the creatively teeming area called Bronzeville. While in Chicago, Mr. Parks produced a number of society portraits and fashion images, but he also turned to documenting the slums of the South Side.

Gordon Parks: Images of Chicago’s South Side

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