Minnie Riperton Biography
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Born on November 8, 1947 to Daniel and Thelma Riperton, Minnie was the youngest of eight children. At the age of three she started modern dance lessons, followed by ballet lessons at 5. Her voice lessons began at the age of nine and she was developing her operatic chops at 11. Her goal at a very young age was to become a famous singer... she sat on the edge of a dream and it came true. A neighborhood playmate (reported to Ebony magazine, 1979) said she demonstrated extraordinary devotion and discipline to her dream. It was not unusual for her to interrupt playing with her friends , so she would be on time for her music instruction.
Minne studied opera under Marion Jeffries. As recalled by Minnie, (reported to journalist Al Rudis) 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. Despite her natural talent (a pure five to six octave soprano) for opera, Minnie was more attracted to "Rock N Roll" and the promise of touring. 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.
As a pre-teen she sung in the acapella choir of Hyde Park High School as a freshman. She was known to leave school early to make $10 a song singing backup at local studios. Some reports indicate that Minnie signed her first contract at 14, while others report her to be 16. Whichever the case, the talented and devoted Minnie was "discovered" in the early 60'sand signed a recording contract with the "Gems" at the now famous Chess Studios (the Gems recordings can be heard on "Minnie Riperton: Her Chess Years").
In 1967 Minne joined the "rock/jazz/vocal ensemble" Rotary Connection. Although, the group was considered popular in Jazz and Rock circles, they never reached the popularity of their closest contemporaries such as "Blood, Sweat and Tears" (one Internet source compared them to "Rare Earth", but that is quite a leap). The style of the Rotary Connection was very progressive... somewhere between rock, jazz, pop, and experimental (what is referred to today as "alternative"). Their highly progressive christmas album, "Peace" (1968) did receive national recognition and the Rotary Connection seemed to be moving to the top. "Christmas Love" was the Christmas song of 1968 and 1969.
Minnie was with the Rotary Connection when she met the love of her life, her husband, Richard Rudolph. They would be the proud and loving parents of two children, Maya and Marc. Minnie was very happy with her little family and continued to write music while living in Gainesville, Florida. The international pop hit "Lovin' You" started out as a lullaby for Maya. Much later the names of Marc and Maya would be used in other songs such as "Love And It's Glory", and "It Wouldn't Matter Where You Are".
Minnie continued to do lots of backup vocal work with such artists as Quincy Jones, Roberta Flack, Freddie Hubbard, and Etta James. Minnie's pure soprano was in demand in the studio, and eventually her 1969 recording of the album "Come To My Garden" was released in 1971. Minnie would eventually move her and her family to Los Angeles, where she was part of Stevie Wonder's backup group, WonderLove and begun work on her second solo recording, "Perfect Angel".
Being the "Perfect Angel" that she was, Minnie's career skyrocketed with the release of "Perfect Angel", and "Adventure's In Paradise" in 1974 and 1975, respectively. The following year Minnie would publicly announce that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a modified mastectomy. The world was shocked, her fans were in fear, but she constantly reminded us that she was still alive and that she was brave and spiritually strong enough to handle it. She was reported to have said in an interview, "I don't think God has forsaken me; I think he allowed me to experience this because I was the one who could handle it."
This kind of resolve and attitude towards life is the spirit of Minnie. Despite adversity, she continued to pursue her career, be a caring loving mother, and a loving and devoted wife to Richard. Yet, Minnie would not be content just doing all of that. Her "experience" (as Minnie 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.
Minnie disclosed her experience to a nationwide audience during an appearance on the Johnny Carson show in 1976.nbsp The guest host that night, the late Flip Wilson, was speechless because he had no prior knowledge and it had not been discussed prior to the airing of the show.nbspnbsp After the show, Minnie confided that she had nothing planned. She had been very hesitant to talk about her operation because she didn't want the out pour of sympathy.nbsp Yet, she understood the need for breast cancer awareness and felt duty bound to get the word out to women about the importance of examination and detection.nbsp More importantly, she believed her own experience would prove to women that the procedure, if cancer is detected, did not prevent them from living a completely happy and normal life.
Very shortly after her surgery, she resumed her normal activities. Just a few 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. This sparked a very deep emotion which explained the tears as she accepted the award. Also being the rececipent of the award was very moving for her, because, as she said, "it came from the people" and she had been blessed enough to be able to accept it and thank the people in person.
Minnie was on a crusade to get the word out to as many women as possible. She performed and spoke at many charity functions, raising moneys to enhance the awareness of women nationwide. Since tennis was her game, you would find her at almost all the celebrity tournaments for charity. Minnie was not only an activist for women's awareness of this life threatening disease. She was a physical and spiritual role model for those thousands of women who mirrored her own experience. She was the champion of champions !
On April 4, 1977 U.S. President Jimmy Carter presented Minnie with the American Cancer Society's "Courage Award". (This touching presentation is available at the Minnie Riperton Legacy Preservation Society website) That following year Minnie would become that organization's National Education Chair. In her role as Chairwoman, Minnie was responsible for implementing the "Self-Examination" pamphlet which is still distributed to women in 2002. Minnie had energy to spare, it seemed. Aside from being a mom, wife, activist, fundraiser, lecturer, and family member, she signed with a new record company (Capitol Records). One of the very few female producers at the time (I am only aware of one other, Joni Mitchell), Minnie's new contract assured her the creative freedom and production quality which she desired. Minnie was happily back in the studio during the summer of 1978 creating what would be her last album, simply entitled "Minnie".
Until the very end of her physical existence Minnie remained positive, loving, and compassionate. One final note which always brings a smile to my lips is Maya's acceptance of a posthumous award for her mom. Posthumously the "Communicator With A Conscience" award was given to Minnie by Hollywood's Rod McGrew Scholarship Fund, Inc. Minnie's six year old daughter, Maya, accepted the award for her mom. With the "propping" assistance of her dad, Maya read:,
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A voice of an angel | Reviewer: Tonya | 9/22/12
I was only 8 years old when this beautiful singer passed. My dad played Back Down Memory Lane and I remember loving that song and that voice. I now understand the reason of that song. May your dreams and inpirations live on through your children. Much love Minnie Much Love
Breast Cancer awareness/music careerr | Reviewer: Lynn | 9/3/12
I love that song she did with Peabo Bryson, I can't recall it at this time, and Back down memory lane, I knew she'd breast cancer, but I thought she overcame it. When I heard that song, I didn't know she was ill. I remember one Friday morning, I was still sleep I haven't woke up yet, and my sister was already up, and told me that Minnie Riperton just died. And that woke me up, and i was like what, I was shock, she was so young. She didn't let that cancer stop her for pursuing her dream, she kept on going until the end. I lost both of my parents to cancer, so I'm hoping that I will meet her family one day. I know what's like to lose a love one. Only thing I can say is Minnie you left us to soon RIP.
the best singer in the world | Reviewer: sherry | 6/9/12
minnie is the best singer in the whole wide world after 33 years. Her songs are still going stong... me and my five kids still love you minnie. me-mariah-melvona-tiffany-jamell-jerell
rebirth of a star | Reviewer: email@example.com | 4/30/11
any body out their who has record connections please call me as I have a wonderful way of bringing an old (Minnie) star music back to life, and also bring awarness back to life of the serioness of breast cancer 316-691-8180 or 316-201-7594 thank you minnie I luv u always Rc nicks
Growing up with your music | Reviewer: Art Elauria | 12/16/10
I was about Minnie's age listening to her music, especially 'loving you'. That was great. I was in Florida several times not knowing Minnie is from Gainsville. Am now in the Philippines my native country. Hope one of her children/grand children would follow her footsteps.
Loving You | Reviewer: Connie Laws | 11/1/09
Miss Minnie: I loved your voice soo, soo much and I was 9yrs. old when you passed away. As my stepmom would blast your music, Memory Lane and sing it rather well, might I add, she was no comparison to you for you were absolutely, "THE BEST OF THE BEST" There is no other that has walked the earth who can compare. Thank you Ms.Minnie for the experience. To her family, "God Bless" Love Ya!!!
simply, the best. | Reviewer: Betty | 9/26/09
Minnie, i hope all of her music will the reconition that it deserve. It will fill my heart with so much pride and love to hear more of her music being played on the radio. Memory Lane and Loving you is by no means the beginning and end of her music. You all need to listen and hear all that's in that beautiful voice, so you can; fEEL WHAT I'M SAYING. LOVE YOU MINNIE.
A Powerful Vocalist Who Permeated the Earth | Reviewer: Craig D. Morgan | 7/3/09
Though I was only age 12 when Minnie Riperton departed this earth, I can certainly say she was one of the most powerful vocalist of our time. I can remember listening to her high powerful voice over a local radio station in Atlanta, Georgia and could feel her vocals just pierce through my soul. I was amazed at the notes she held and saying to myself, "what a gift from GOD". I remember as I got older going out buying her music and playing various songs by her saying to myself, "this is a vocalist and heart felt singer gone to soon". It is not surprising that other vocalist of my generation admired this great talent who touched the lives of many through not only her vocals but music as well. What a gift you were. Your musical songs, vocals and spirit has not been matched. Unique and forever missed. A true gift from GOD.
Gift from GOD | Reviewer: ROD JONES | 6/7/09
I remember listening to Minnie while growing up in Chicago in the early 70's. Her vocal range and the lyrics in her songs seem to speak to me even at at young age. Even today I think of her constantly and have introduced many of family members and friends to her music. She was before her time and left us too soon. Her legacy lives on and I will always love her for the gift she shared and the indelible mark she made on the world.
My Love, Minnie Riperton | Reviewer: Cedric J. Smith | 5/7/09
Everyday, I think of you and I want the whole world to know. Minnie, you are the most special person on this whole earth. I love you a many times over. It is the meaning of life to me. The words in your songs are just what this life is all about. I have two african american son's and I dedicate their births to you. TeMari Smith and Sequan Smith of VA. You are the mother and the woman and my love. My love is yours. Honey, it is so hard, with out you here. Because the more I think of you the more I love you. Yes, I am inside your love. And will be forever. I can hardly stand to think of me and you whaen your singing your song for the Gems, All Of It, Cause Baby, I don't have anymore it's only you to me. I have given it all to you. I am 36 now you left that body when I was 7. You know I was born the first memorial day. It be so that we would be inside each other, yearning each other. Walking with you daily you know I must bring this letter to a close so I can get back to what we do the more in this life of ours. This is so that all the people of the world can know: I am and my very selfish self with EVERYDAY of my life my love my Minnie Julia Riperton. And may love take care of all the rest of you and keep you and you do the same. Bless the Family Riperton's, I know you are there at home. Chicago, Ill. and The Lincoln Center and to the Rudolph's keep on strong, remember me. This is the Love Cedric J. Smith Hunt, The Son of Nobles, and The first born of the first Memorial Day 72 and I grant you blessings of peace, joy, sanctity and care by Minnie Julia Riperton and CJSH.
Ms.Minnie Songbird Diva | Reviewer: Theresa Ferguson | 3/29/09
what can i say that hasn't already been said i was 13yrs old when she passed away and there is none other than this beautiful diva songbird i still admire to this date. god rest your soul ms. minnie you will never be forgotten. peace and blessings theresa F.
A REAL ANGEL | Reviewer: PATRICK | 11/9/08
I was not born in Chicago but i lived and grew up as
a child there. I was only 4 years old when i would
hear my older sisters and brothers play Minnie's music. Am 41 now,by GOD'S grace and Minnie's music
will always be a part of my life. I met a new friend
and dedicated Minnie's LOVING YOU to her. Music made
today is fine but it will never replace that which came first. GOD bless any remaining RIPERTONS.
Beautiful delightful songbird | Reviewer: Glorya | 8/19/08
Minnie Riperton, has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. I was 14 when she died, the day before my baby sisters birthday... I will never forget the announcement for as long as I live over the radio that dreadful day. Being a breast cancer survivor of now 5yrs, also creates a special part & bond in my heart for her. The struggle she must have had, with something so heart renching @ such a young age. God opened my ears and heart to her beautiful voice, spirit and soul. She is the essence of what a Beautiful Black Sister should be, and a part of her lives within me. I Love you Minnie, and I know you are where you belong with the Angels of Courage and strength, God blessed us with your Glorious presence. Continue to rest my sister, in the name of our heavenly father...
Minnie Rriperton was beautiful Jewel | Reviewer: Shawnee Buckner from Laurel MD. | 8/11/08
I was around seven or eight years old and I can remember Minnie Riperton's song, Back Down Memory Lane that was my favorite song and she was just so beautiful to me. Her voice touches my heart just last night I sat up late listening to her music and it just made me cry, to know how she was ill and still worked very hard at every thing that she did in life. I offten think about her and her family and to hear that her daughter turned out very successful on the Saturday Night Live Show let me know that their dad really raise them well.
Beautiful! | Reviewer: A Huge Minnie Fan!!! | 10/8/07
Minnie was a beautiful spirit: a beautiful face, voice and soul. I grew up listening to her music and miss her so much. I often wonder what might have become of her as an artist had she lived. She, imnsho, was one the last true artists: she could sing without relying on vocal acrobatics and could distinctly enunciate in the whistle register! Wow! The world lost a real gem with the passing of Minnie but I thank God that we had her for as long as we did.
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