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Minnie Riperton was born on November 8, 1947 in Chicago. Her parents, Thelma and Daniel Riperton, had seven other children, making Riperton the youngest out of eight. Growing up in a musical family, Riperton was aware of her passion for music at a very young age. Riperton started her passion as a dancer but her parents soon noticed her vocal talent and encouraged her to start music and voice. At such a young age, she started training at Chicago’s Lincoln Center, receiving operatic training from Marion Jeffery. By the time she was fifteen she was apart of The Gems; they did not received a lot of commercial attention and decided to wait before they got serious about pursing a group career. While training with Jeffery, Riperton became a master at opera and show tunes. Jeffery was so convinced about Riperton’s talent that he suggested she continue to study music at Chicago’s Junior Lyric Opera, but Riperton had another plan in mind; her passion was in soul and blues. After graduating from High School, she attended Loop College and became a member of Zeta Phi Beta, but eventually dropped out of college to pursue her music career.
In 1967, she met songwriter Richard Rudolph, married him five years later, and eventually started a family with one boy name Marc and their daughter, Maya Rudolph. The Gems eventually connected again and provided background vocals for Fontella Bass’ hit “Rescue Me”. In 1964, The Gems released their hit “I Can’t Help Myself” topping charts, and their last hit, “He Makes Me Feel So Good,” was released in 1965. After 1965, they released numerous re-makes such as: “Baby I Want You” and “My Baby’s Real” by The Starlets. The group received many northern based fans and their last song, “Watered Down”, was released in 1968.
After her break up with The Gems, Riperton joined Rotary Connection with Judy Hauff, Sidney Barnes, and Charles Stephney. Releasing five albums while together but eventually collapsing and not working out as a group, it was time for Riperton to start her own solo career. Her solo album, Come To My Garden, was produced by Charles Stepney and was released in 1970. Even though the album did not receive a lot of acknowledgement when it was released, it is known today to music critics as a “masterpiece.”
Riperton eventually dropped out of the industry and became a housewife, but when Steve Slutzah heard her demo of “Seeing You This Way”, he immediately signed her to Epic Records and had her and her family move to Los Angeles. When Riperton released Perfect Angel, it sold as one of her best-selling albums with numerous rock-soul songs, with her single “Take a Little Trip” written by Stevie Wonder and her last single “Seeing You This Way” knocking the record deal, you would think everyone would want to hear her talent. Unfortunately, sales started off slow, and Epic wanted to start a second album in hopes of sale changes. But, Riperton had a different plan, she persuaded Epic to release the single “Lovin’ You”. The album finally made sales, topped charts in the U.S. and in 24 other countries, selling more than one million copies, and going gold.
After Perfect Angel was released, Riperton got to work on her third album, Adventures in Paradise, which was released in 1975. The album did not receive as much success as Perfect Angel, but Riperton did not stop. She released her fourth album, Stay in Love, and had collaborations with Stevie Wonder on the album. The album received some commercial advertisement, but not much. Riperton decided it would be best if she moved to Capitol Records in April of 1979 and release her last album, Minnie, which is known as one of her best albums.
Unfortunately on August 24, 1976, Riperton was a guest on The Tonight Show, announcing that she had undergone a mastectomy, was trying to fight breast cancer, and was given only about six months to live. Continuing to tour throughout 1977-78 and becoming a spokeswoman for American Cancer Society campaign in 1978-79, she passed in her husband’s arm on July 12th at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Riperton’s music will live forever on, and her spirit still lives through her family and children.
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