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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