Minnie Riperton

Her Story: Minnie Riperton

On this day in history (April 5, 1975), Minnie Riperton’s single “Lovin’ You” became a number 1 hit on Billboard’s pop singles chart and went on to achieved the same status in over 20 countries around the world. She was married to songwriter and music producer Richard Rudolph and they had two children: music engineer Marc Rudolph and actress/comedienne Maya Rudolph.

Minnie Riperton was born Minnie Julia Riperton on November 8th 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. She was the youngest of eight children, born to Daniel and Thelma Riperton. She studied classical music as a child and developed a five-octave vocal range and originally planned to become an opera singer.

She studied music, drama, and dance at Chicago’s Lincoln Center received operatic vocal training from Marion Jeffery. Riperton began singing as a session singer at the Chess Records studio when she was just a teenager.  She provided backing vocals on records by legendary artist Bo Diddley, Etta James, Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry.

At age 16, Riperton signed her first professional contract and began singing with an all-girl group named “The Gems” on the Chess label. After “The Gems”, she joined the psychedelic rock group “The Rotary Connection”. During this time Riperton met songwriter and producer Richard Rudolph. They married in 1969 and had a son, Marc Rudolph. Together they worked on Riperton’s first solo album, 1969’s “Come to My Garden”. In 1972 she Riperton she gave birth to her daughter Maya Rudolph

Eventually, Riperton and her family moved to Los Angeles where she to become a member of Stevie Wonder‘s backing group, “Wonderlove”. After touring with Wonder, she returned to the studio to work on her second solo album, “Perfect Angel” which contained the international pop hit “Lovin’ You”. As the story is told, “Lovin’ You” was originally written as a lullaby for her then two-year-old daughter, Maya.

In January 1976, Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and, in April, she underwent a radical mastectomy. At the time of diagnosis, cancer had metastasized and she was given about six months to live. She was one of the first celebrities to go public with her breast cancer diagnosis but did not disclose she was terminally ill. Despite her prognosis she continued recording and touring. 

Riperton became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society in 1977. In 1978, she received the American Cancer Society’s Courage Award, which was presented to her at the White House by President Jimmy Carter. July 12, 1979, at age 31, Minnie Riperton succumbed to cancer in her husband’s arms while listening to a song written especially for her by her friend Steve Wonder.

About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.

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