Minnie Riperton: "The Whistle Blower"
If you are anything like me, you see music as a blessing from God. Music in some form or fashion has been around since Paleolithic times according to historians. I can’t imagine life without music. Music comes in so many different forms and connect people from various races, cultures, religions and abstract societies. Throughout World History the art of music and sound (in this context) is as fascinating as The Seven Wonders of the World, Fine Art, and any Literature ever written. I would personally say that music is more impressive. A person’s “Voice” is an instrument within itself. A few years ago, I was watching the Hip Hop Documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life, which revolve around the history of Rap Group A Tribe Called Quest. As I watched a portion of the documentary showcasing Q-Tip’s sampling of records, I was given a reminder in regard to the connection of two of my favorite songs, “Lyrics to Go” and “Inside My Love”. A voice that only survived 368 months was responsible for this musical marriage.
During the 60’s and 70’s there were numerous artists that came with unique sounds, voices, looks and something special that inspired generations. Many of the artists (singers in the context of this Article) shared dreams about the perfect love, family and even racial equality within the music. Artists found creative ways to talk about intimacy and sex in a manner that was still classy and poetic. One of the lead figures in this era was Minnie Riperton (Born: Minnie Julia Riperton-Rudolph;1947). Minnie Riperton is on a short list of singers who weren’t fortunate enough to live through several decades of orchestrating music but left an everlasting impression. Before diving into her music, allow me to state that her “Voice” was very unique. Not many singers who gained notoriety had the whistle tone and coloratura soprano range she possessed. Hell, Minnie could have been an opera singer from what I’ve been told by those who study that style of singing/music.
“Lovin' you is easy 'cause you're beautiful Makin' love with you is all I wanna do Lovin' you is more than just a dream come true And everything that I do is out of lovin' you La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la Do do do do do
No one else can make me feel The colors that you bring Stay with me while we grow old And we will live each day in springtime 'Cause lovin' you has made my life so beautiful And every day of my life is filled with lovin' you…
Born on the South Side of Chicago, Minnie grew up studying drama, music and dance at Chicago’s Lincoln Theater. In my opinion, that is historic and foreshadowing of something memorable. As a teen she was the lead vocalist for a local group called The Gems. Shortly after, Minnie would have the opportunity to sing back-up with various legends through her affiliation with Chess Records, which was very popular locally. A few acts that allowed Minnie to serve as a background singer where Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and Etta James. While at Chess Records in her early 20’s, Minnie also singed lead for rock/soul group called Rotary Connection. This was an experimental group with over 10 members. Minnie was part of the band from 1967-1971. Shortly after, Minnie pursued her solo career and this is when the music world would hear a voice like no other. As I sit here listening to one of her underrated songs “Baby, This Love I Have”, I would like to share a few facts and opinions in regard to this amazing song.
“Things I say and do may not come clear through My words may not convey just what I'm feelin' But I hope you'll recognize what's right before your eyes Oh, your heart should realize From where I'm dealin'…..
Minnie was passionate like SADE and her songs were written like stanza’s in a poem. The track “Baby, This Love I Have” hit home for me on a few fronts. First, my favorite group A Tribe Called Quest sampled this song for their single “Check the Rhime” off the classic 1991 album The Low End Theory. Needless to say, the average Hip Hop Historian will call this a landmark song and album in Rap Music. Minnie’s lyrics can also be heard on the track “KOS (Knowledge of Self)” off Black Star (Mos Def and Talib Kweli) 1998 debut album. I would also say that in my opinion, DeBarge was absolutely influenced by this track and this can be heard on the hit single “All this Love”. You can hear the melody, spirit and vibe that motivated El Debarge to write and produce this amazing song. The intro to “KOS” (Black Star) is the lyrics you see above this particular paragraph. Minnie’s album Adventures In Paradise also had “Inside My Love”, that I spoke on earlier.
“Two people, just meeting, barely touching each other Two spirits, greeting, tryna carry each further You are one, and I am another We should be, one inside each other
You can see inside me, will you come inside me Do you wanna ride, inside my love You can see inside me, will you come inside me Do you wanna ride, inside my love….
We all know that some songs and lyrics stick with you for a lifetime. Minnie’s voice on “Inside My Love” was literally sampled by Q-Tip for the track “Lyrics to Go” off the 1993 album Midnight Marauders. This is literally my favorite Rap Song, which make this Article very refreshing and significant to me on a personal level. This song can also be heard in a rendition by Chante’ Moore for the hit TV Series New York Undercover, Aaliyah on the Timberland produced track “Heartbroken” and my favorite cover on Love Jones Soundtrack by Trina Broussard. Talk about a sexy and sensual track, there aren’t many delivered so flawlessly. This track has been sampled by other artists as well but these are the ones that stand out to me.
“I stumbled on this photograph It kinda made me laugh It took me way back Back down memory lane
I see the happiness... i see the pain Where am i... back down memory lane
I see us standing there Such a happy happy pair Love beyond compare Look-a-there look-a-there
The way you held me... no one could tell me That love would die... why oh why Did i have to find this photograph Thought i had forgot the past But now I'm slippin' fast Back down memory lane…
Minnie had the rare gift of bringing you into her world with an amazing voice that is only matched by a few in the culture. I enjoy tracks such as “Back Down Memory Lane”, “Here We Go”, “Les Fleurs”, “Everytime He Comes Around”, “Perfect Angel”, “Tale A Little Trip” and “Light My Fire” stick out but you really can’t go wrong with her discography. Minnie worked with industry legends such as Stevie Wonder and many others in a short period of time. This is the result of talent that can’t be denied. With 6 albums and 14 singles that charted one could view her career as complete and successful but this is not the case in my opinion. Minnie had so much more to give. After her 3rd album Minnie was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Over the next few years Minnie battled Breast Cancer and the disease eventually spread. Although her sickness progressed, in 1977, she continued to tour and became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. On July 12, 1979 Minnie died of Cancer in her husband’s (Richard Rudolph) arms listening to a song Stevie Wonder had written for her. Minnie died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA where Frank Sinatra, Eazy E, Biggie Smalls, Barry White, Johnny Carson, Heavy D, Stan Lee and many others passed away at. As I’ve stated before, in the words of one of my favorite Hip Hop Artists Mos Def, Life is fantastic, beautiful and tragic.
At the end of the day, we were fortunate to hear such a beautiful voice from a kind spirit. Cancer, like other terminal illnesses are hard to swallow. Personally, my mother died of Cancer at 27 years old and Minnie Riperton was only 31 years old so I know her loved ones felt what I felt. In life, some special birds fly away early. In life, some energy will not be here long but the vibration will live on for eternity. In life, there is no explanation for every occurrence. We live the best we can and appreciate each day. The lovely thing about music is the fact that it NEVER dies. Minnie Riperton left behind a husband, two children and a legacy that purest continue to appreciate. As I conclude, it was truly a pleasure briefly sharing the life of Minnie Riperton. I pray that these simple words motivate you to explore all of her music and also live life to the fullest as nothing is ever promised.