Minnie Julia Riperton (November 8, 1947 – July 12, 1979) was an American singer-songwriter best known for her vocal range of more than five octaves and her 1975 single “Lovin’ You”. She was married to songwriter and music producer Richard Rudolph (1968 until her death in 1979). She was also the mother of music engineer Marc Rudolph and actress/comedienne Maya Rudolph.
Riperton grew up in poverty on Chicago’s southside. As a child Riperton studied music, drama, and dance at Chicago’s Lincoln Center. In her teen years, Riperton sang lead vocals for the Chicago-based girl group, The Gems. Her early affiliation with legendary Chess Records afforded her the opportunity to sing backup for various established artist 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. In 1969 Riperton, along with Rotary Connection, played in the first Catholic Rock Mass at the Liturgical Conference National Convention, Milwaukee Arena, Milwaukee, WI. produced by James F. Colaianni. Riperton reached the apex of her short, but esteemed, career with her number-one hit single, “Lovin’ You”, on April 4, 1975. The single was the last release from her 1974 gold album entitled Perfect Angel.
In 1976 Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a modified radical mastectomy. Though she was given just six months to live, she continued recording and touring, and in 1977 she became spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. Riperton was one of the first celebrities to go public with her breast cancer diagnosis, but did not disclose that she was terminally ill. In 1978, Riperton also received the prestigious Society’s Courage Award presented to her at the White House by then-President Jimmy Carter. She died at age 31 on July 12, 1979.
Please enjoy this video clip of Minnie Ripperton performing her 1975 hit, “Lovin’ You“.