Black News and News Makers in History: Minnie Riperton

Black news from Pasadena - Black News and News Makers in History celebrates Minnie Riperton this week in Black history.Minnie Riperton, a singer-songwriter, activist, best known for her vocal range of five-and-a-half octaves and her 1975 single "Lovin' You". She had one of the widest vocal ranges of the twentieth century. Classically trained, she preferred other music genres and was surrounded by the best including Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Michael Jackson, Carol King, Quincy Jones, Roberta Flack, Freddie Hubbard, Jose Feliciano and others. The passion expressed in her vocals are spine-tingling and bring tears. Through her fight with metastasized cancer, she lived her life passionately. A true inspiration.

Minnie Julia Riperton was born on November 8, 1947 in Chicago, the daughter of Daniel and Thelma Riperton, she was the youngest of eight children. At the age of three, she started modern dance lessons, followed by ballet lessons at age five. Her voice lessons began at the age of nine and she was developing her operatic chops at age eleven. Her goal at a very young age was to become a famous singer.

Riperton studied opera under Marion Jeffries. She spent months and months learning how to breathe, listening to and holding vowels. Eventually, she began singing operas and operettas with a show tune every so often. As a pre-teen she sang in the A Capella choir of Hyde Park High School as a freshman. She began making $10 a song by singing backup at local studios. Some reports indicate that Minnie signed her first contract at age 14, while others report her to be 16. At age 15, she was singing with The Gems, also known by other names in the studio later. It was during this time, a song, Lonely Girl, was written for her. She sang under the name Andrea Davis in honor of the writer.

After graduating from Hyde Park High School, she enrolled at Loop College and became a member of the prestigious Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. However, she dropped out of college to pursue her music career.

Despite her natural talent (a pure five to six octave soprano) for opera, Riperton was more attracted to soul, rhythm and blues and rock--and the promise of a touring career. She would inevitably discontinue her classical training to follow her dream of being a famous vocalist. It would, however, be her classical training, which brought her the success she sought. Riperton signed a recording contract with the "Gems" at Chess Studios and in 1967, at age 20, she joined the "rock/jazz/vocal ensemble" Rotary Connection.

The style of the Rotary Connection was very progressive — somewhere between rock, jazz, pop, and experimental. Riperton was with the Rotary Connection when she met the love of her life, her husband, Richard Rudolph, songwriter and music producer. They had two children, Maya and Marc whose names are included the names of two of her songs. Maya is the name of the girl in the tale of Love and It's Glory and a personal reference to both can be found towards the end of Lovin' You. She sings to Marc in Wouldn't Matter Where You Are. Maya Rudolph might be recognized for her acting on Saturday Night Live.

Riperton did backup vocal work with Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and others at a young age. Later she would do backup vocal work with Quincy Jones, Roberta Flack, Freddie Hubbard, and Etta James.

In 1969, at age 22, she recorded the album "Come to My Garden" which was released in 1971, then came "Perfect Angel" and "Adventure's In Paradise" in 1974 and 1975, respectively.

In 1976, at age 29, Riperton announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a modified mastectomy. By the time of diagnosis, the cancer had metastasized and she was given about six months to live. Despite the grim prognosis, she continued recording and touring. Riperton was one of the first celebrities to go public with her breast cancer diagnosis, but did not disclose that she was terminally ill.

Her "experience" (as she referred to her illness) would give her yet another reason for her life... lending her celebrity and compassion for others to become a spokesperson for breast cancer awareness and the need for self-examination and the benefit of early detection.

Within weeks after her surgery, she appeared for the taping of the Ebony Music Awards. When she received her "Ebby", she later revealed, she was so overcome by the thought of how lucky she was to have made it through the ordeal her and her family had went through. Riperton continued on a crusade to get the word out to as many women as possible. Since tennis was her game, you would find her at almost all the celebrity tournaments for charity.

In 1977, at age 30, (then) President Jimmy Carter presented her with the American Cancer Society's "Courage Award," a year later Riperton would become that organization's National Education Chairwoman.

Aside from being a mother, wife, activist, fund raiser, lecturer, and family member, she signed with Capitol Records; a contract that gave her the creative freedom and production quality that she desired. During the summer of 1978, at age 31, creating what would be her last album, simply entitled "Minnie". She was guest on numerous variety and specialty shows including Soul Train, The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show, The Mike Douglas Show and others.

Her last televised performance was on an episode of The Mike Douglas Show (aired July 6, 1979), during which she performed Memory Lane and Lover and Friend, her right arm paralyzed from a cancerous tumor

Shortly after her performance, she was confined to bed. She entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on July 10. On July 12, 1979, while lying in her husband's arms, Riperton died while listening to a recording Stevie Wonder had made for her. That Sunday, following a funeral service attended by more than five hundred mourners.

Riperton's ability to enunciate in the high registers set her apart from most other whistle-register singers. This feature is most notably heard in the song Here We Go, where she sings "here we go" in the whistle register. Whistle-register enunciation can also be heard in songs such as Inside My Love, Adventures in Paradise, Expecting, Only When I'm Dreaming, and also in Teach Me How to Fly and Like a Rolling Stone with the Rotary Connection.

Riperton was also noted for her ability to sound almost mechanical or instrumental in the whistle register. In You Take My Breath Away, she sings a portamento ending two octaves above the staff. She has also been credited for her ability to sustain notes in the sixth and seventh octave for long periods of time, as in Reasons, Could It Be I'm in Love, Adventures in Paradise, and Inside My Love and also Love Me Now with the Rotary Connection. Having an innate ability to imitate many instruments helped lead to Riperton's discovery while she was a secretary at Chess Records. In her recordings. Riperton's highest recorded note reached in the whistle register was F7 on the third scale of You Take My Breath Away Minnie reached this extremely high note before on an early recording of Teach Me How To Fly and Could It Be I'm In Love. Also in a live performance she sang an F#7.

In 2009, on US TV network's) Unsung series, a documentary was aired. You can hear Riperton's amazing vocals on YouTube. Her discology is impressive.

Compiled from Wikipedia and www.anothershadeofcolor.com.


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