Rock Flashback: Minnie Riperton and Rotary Connection
Singer [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Minnie Riperton[/lastfm] is known for two things: the 1975 hit “Lovin’ You,” a soft-soul song in which she hits an astoundingly high note, and for being the mother of comic actress Maya Rudolph. Minnie died of breast cancer in 1979 at age 31. As is true of any life, there’s more to her than what people remember best.
Minnie Riperton was born in Chicago and was trained to be an opera singer from an early age, but her bliss lay elsewhere — in the world of rock and R&B. She began singing professionally in 1964, and can be heard backing [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Fontella Bass[/lastfm] on the 1965 hit “Rescue Me.” She also worked as a receptionist in the office of Chess Records in Chicago, and was hired in 1967 to sing in a Chess group called [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Rotary Connection[/lastfm].
Allmusic describes Rotary Connection’s music as “psychedelic chamber soul” — arranger Charles Stepney was as much the star of the group as any of the group’s six official members. Rotary Connection made six albums between 1967 and 1971, borrowing influences from everywhere — rock, soul, classical, jazz, Eastern music.
Their self-titled debut album was their highest-charting, a mixture of Stepney originals and covers of songs by the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Rolling Stones[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Bob Dylan[/lastfm]. (They would eventually release an all-covers album, Songs, in 1969 — the year in which they reportedly turned down an invitation to play at Woodstock.)
In many cases, Rotary Connection’s cover versions were radical reworkings of the originals. Take their version of “Respect,” made famous by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Aretha Franklin[/lastfm], which appeared on Songs.
Rotary Connection disbanded in 1974, but Riperton had already launched her own solo career in 1970 with Come to My Garden. Four years later, Perfect Angel, a collaboration with [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Stevie Wonder[/lastfm], would contain “Lovin’ You.”
She would release three more albums between 1975 and 1979. A final album, in progress at her death, was finished by her musician/producer husband Richard Rudolph, and released in 1980.
Had she lived, Minnie Riperton would have turned 64 years old today.
[metrolyrics artist="minnie riperton" song="loving you"]