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Minnie Riperton Biography

Home > Music > R > Riperton, Minnie > Biography

Birth Name: Minnie Julia Riperton
Born: 1947/11/08
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: 1979/07/12
Years Active: 1962–1979
Genres: Soul, R&B

Minnie Julia Riperton Rudolph was born November 8, 1947 in Chicago, and was a singer and songwriter professionally known as Minnie Riperton. She was married to songwriter and music producer Richard Rudolph from 1972 until her death in the summer of 1979. They had two children, music engineer Marc Rudolph and actress/comedienne Maya Rudolph.

Riperton grew up on Chicago's South Side and studied music, drama and dance as a child at the Chicago Lincoln Center. By the time Riperton was a teenager she was singing lead vocals for the Chicago-based girl group, The Gems. Her early affiliation with the legendary Chicago-based Chess Records afforded her the opportunity to sing backup for various established artists 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.

1967 marked a meeting with songwriter Richard Rudolph, with whom Riperton would go on to marry and have two children. At age 15, Riperton was singing with The Gems. It was during this time that Riperton met producer Billy Davis, who would write her first local hit, “Lonely Girl.” The success of her singles with Davis led to airplay on the radio and Riperton joining the funk/rock/soul group, Rotary Connection. The group released their debut album in 1967, with five more albums following.

By 1970, Riperton had branched out on her own with her solo album, “Come to My Garden.” 1973 saw Riperton sign with Epic Records and move to Los Angeles, California. Riperton’s debut for the major, “Perfect Angel,” was a commercial success and spurred the hits, “Reasons,” “Take a Little Trip,” “Seeing You This Way” and the Billboard R&B #3 and U.K. #2 hit, “Lovin' You.”

Riperton's third offering, “Adventures in Paradise,” arrived in 1975 and spawned the R&B hit, “Inside My Love.” In January 1976, Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical 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 she was terminally ill.

In 1977, she became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. Her fourth album, and third for Epic Records, “Stay in Love,” was released later in 1977 and featured a collaboration with Stevie Wonder on the track, “Stick Together.” In 1978, Riperton received the American Cancer Society's Courage Award which was presented to her at the White House by President Jimmy Carter.

That same year, Riperton's attorney Mike Rosenfeld and her husband, Richard Rudolph, orchestrated a move to Capitol Records for Riperton. In April 1979, Riperton released her fifth and final album, “Minnie. “During the recording of the album, her cancer progressed to the point that she was in a great deal of pain. “Memory Lane” was a hit from the album, and was arguably Riperton's greatest work.

Riperton died at age 31 on July 12, 1979. After Riperton died, several artists contributed vocals to tracks she had recorded before her death, to help compile Richard Rudolph's final tribute to his wife, “Love Lives Forever.” Included, among others, were Peabo Bryson, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.

Riperton's last single, “Give Me Time,” was released in 1980. In 1981, Capitol Records released “The Best of Minnie Riperton, “a greatest hits collection.