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Famous Like Me > Singer > R > Minnie Julia Riperton

Profile of Minnie Julia Riperton on Famous Like Me

Name: Minnie Julia Riperton  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 12th July 1947
Place of Birth:
Profession: Singer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Minnie Julia Riperton (November 8, 1947 - July 12, 1979) was a soul singer from Chicago, Illinois, noted for her abilities in the whistle register and her hit single "Lovin' You".


As a child, Riperton studied music, drama, and dance, and seriously considered a career in opera. However, her affiliation with the famous Chess Records record label soon allowed her to sing backup for Etta James, Fontella Bass, and Stevie Wonder. Riperton sang lead vocals for several small, unsuccessful bands before teaming up with her husband, composer Richard Rudolph, to start her solo career. Stevie Wonder agreed to produce her 1974 album, Perfect Angel, featuring "Lovin' You", a ballad to her two-year old daughter Maya.

Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in 1976. She became an active spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society and was awarded the Society Courage Award from President Jimmy Carter. She died in 1979 at the age of 31 and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

In addition to her musical legacy, Minnie Riperton is survived by her daughter, Maya Rudolph, a current cast member of Saturday Night Live.

Early Childhood

Minnie Julia Riperton was born on November 8, 1947 to Daniel and Thelma Riperton. The youngest of eight children in a very musical family, Riperton embraced the arts very early in life. Although she started in ballet and modern dance, Riperton's parents recognized her coloratura abilities early in life, and she soon shifted to music and voice.

Minnie Riperton received operatic vocal training at the Lincoln Center by Miss Marion Jeffery. There she would practice breath control, holding vowels for extended times and phrase enunication, with particular care for diction. Jeffery also would train all of her range, which is rather unusual in operatic training as many classical purists deem the seventh octave unmusical. So important were these lessons to Riperton that it is said that she would suddenly drop playing with friends to make a lesson.

While studying, Riperton sang operettas or a show tune, in preparation for a life in opera. Jeffery was so convinced in her pupil's coloratura abilities, she strongly pushed her to study the classics further at Chicago's Junior Lyric Opera. However, this was the '60s and Minnie was becoming very interested in soul, rhythm and blues, and rock. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at Loop College, but dropped out after a mere three weeks.

Early Career

Riperton's first professional appearance occurred when she was 15 as part of The Gems. Raynard Miner, a blind pianist, heard Riperton during her membership in Hyde Park's A Capella Choir. The Gems had relatively limited commercial success with Chess Records, but the group proved to be a good outlet to expose Riperton's talents to the music industry at large. Eventually the group became a session trio (to back other albums) called 'Studio Three'. In 1964 the Gems released a local-hit "I Can't Help Myself" and their last single, "He Makes Me Feel So Good" was released in 1965. After that the group released records under numerous names - most notably 1966's "Baby I Want You" by the Girls Three and 1967's "My Baby's Real" by the Starlets. The former has achieved cult-status with Northern Soul fans and remains a favorite. The latter was a Motown-styled song reminiscent of Tammi Terrell. In 1968 "Watered Down" was released as a follow-up, under the name the Starlets. Ultimately it was the last release of Riperton's girl-group. "My Baby's Real" by the Starlets and "He Makes Me Feel So Good" by the Gems can be purchased on CD on Ace's Where the Girls Are V.3.

Andrea Davis

While a part of 'Studio Three', Riperton met her mentor, producer Billy Davis. He would write her first local hit "Lonely Girl" and "You Gave Me Soul". In honor of Davis, she used the "showbiz name", Andrea Davis, for the release of those two singles. Afterwards, she would use her real name.

Rotary Connection

Some months after her Andrea Davis singles hit the radio, Riperton would join the Rotary Connection, a funky rock-soul group creation of Marshall Chess, the son of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess. The band consisted of Riperton, Chess, Judy Hauff, Sidney Barnes and Charles Stepney. While she was in Rotary Connection, she met Richard Rudolph, her future husband and songwriting partner. The group released their debut in 1967, eventually releasing four more albums, 1968's Aladdin, the Christmas album Peace, Songs, and finally 1970's Dinner Music.

"Lovin' You"

In 1973, a college rep for Epic Records found Riperton, then a semi-retired homemaker and mother of two in Gainesville, Florida. After he heard a demo of the song "Seeing You This Way", which showcased her effortless coloratura, the rep took the tape to Don Ellis, VP of A&R for Epic. Minnie signed with Epic Records and the family moved to Los Angeles, California. After meeting with Stevie Wonder and recording the background for his song "It Ain't No Use" with Deniece Williams and Lani Groves, Wonder produced Minnie's second LP entitled Perfect Angel. Including the rock-soul anthem "Reasons", the second single "Take A Little Trip", and the third single "Seeing You This Way", sales of the album started out slow. Epic was ready to move on to the next record, but Rudolph convinced them to release another single. With the fourth single "Lovin' You", the album really caught on. In 1974, the song went to the top of the charts in both the US and UK, and just missed the top mark at number three on the R&B charts in the US. The album Perfect Angel went platinum, and Minnie was finally revered as the "lady with the high voice". The album also featured the song "Every Time He Comes Around", featuring Deniece Williams as the operatic soprano in the background.

Later Career

After Perfect Angel, Minnie Riperton and Richard Rudolph started on Riperton's third album Adventures in Paradise. Keyboardist Joe Sample played throughout the album and helped co-write "Adventures in Paradise". The album was a modest success. Despite the R&B hit "Inside My Love" (a number five US R&B hit, later covered by Trina Broussard, and Chanté Moore), the album didn't match the success of Perfect Angel. Riperton would sink back into mainstream obscurity, but enjoyed a good career in R&B.

The End

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1976 and the cancer spread rapidly. Despite a mastectomy, it had already hit her lymph nodes. Sadly the cancer was terminal. Minnie would tour in 1977 and 1978, but eventually the cancer took its toll. Near the end, Minnie entered Cedars-Sinai Hospital, and at approximately 10 AM on July 12, 1979, Minnie passed away in her husband's arms at age 31.

Vocal ability

About fifteen percent of soprano singers have the ability to access the lower reaches of the whistle register, but Riperton was capable of not only accessing the seventh octave, she had the ability (sheer muscular control) to execute trills, runs, and other vocal acrobatics in the seventh octave. Her highest recorded note is F#7 in "You Take My Breath Away", but not only did she sing many songs going into the seventh octave, it is well rumored that she could hit a C8 (two full octaves above soprano C or C6). Very few people have been able to reach the vocal altitude that Riperton is known for, namely Adam Lopez, Mariah Carey and Deniece Williams. Lopez has hit C8 note on a television show in Australia, while Carey can sing one note above her, and Williams is known to hit the same notes as Riperton.

Vocalists Rachelle Ferrell, Shanice Wilson, Chanté Moore and Christina Aguilera have demonstrated some of the techniques that made Riperton so popular. "Lovin' You" showcased Riperton's five-octave (the liner notes to her legacy album Petals details her voice as having 5.5 octaves) vocal range, as well as her ability to hit an F6 note in the whistle register. What set Minnie Riperton apart from many other singers capable of the whistle register is her ability to sound almost mechanical or instrumental, as well as her ability to clearly enunciate clearly well above Soprano High C. In "You Take My Breath Away" she sounds like feedback on a microphone. In "Here We Go" Riperton chirps the phrase 'here we go' with perfect diction, despite the notes' very lofty altitude. Having an innate ability to imitate many instruments helped lead to her discovery while she was a secretary at Chess Records.


  • The plot of an early episode of South Park centers around a male singer's inability to hit the F6 in "Lovin' You".
  • In 1991 Shanice Wilson covered "Lovin' You", updating it for a 90's sound.
  • In 1992 Rachelle Ferrell sings (and sustains) an E7 in "It Only Took A Minute", demonstrating a technique of Minnie Riperton, to sing a note so high, it loses any real human color and thus sounds instrumental.
  • In 1999 Mariah Carey mimicked Riperton in her song "Bliss", the third track on her album Rainbow. Carey can be heard singing the phrase 'On and On' in such a manner her voice sounds almost like a steaming tea kettle to illustrate her feelings.
  • In 2001 one of Riperton's earlier songs, "Les Fleur", was covered by 4hero, using Carina Andersson as the lead vocalist.
  • In 2003 Kenny Lattimore and wife Chanté Moore covered "Here We Go".
  • In 2004 Adam Lopez instrumentalized in the background of his song "Stay With Me", imitating a piccolo in a manner similar to Minnie Riperton.
  • In 2005 Tireh duplicated Riperton's bridge acrobatics that she displayed on her climax for "Memory Lane" by sustaining notes in the whistle register to mimic the sound of a violin, in his song titled "Who Would Have Known".

PLUS - plenty of Hip-Hop artists in the 90s have taken samples, most notably the middle-8 Rhodes riff from "Inside my love"

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Minnie Julia Riperton