he Perfect Angel album was a perfect display for the powerful five-octave range of Minnie Riperton. Her number one single from that LP, "Lovin' You," was produced by Stevie Wonder, and Wonder visited Minnie in the hospital the night before she died. "Well, the final person that I was waiting for has arrived, and everything will be alright now," she told him. Minnie Riperton died of cancer on July 12, 1979. She was just 31 years old.
She had to choose between joining the Junior Lyric Opera and touring with the Gems, and decided on the latter. The group backed up other Chess artists, including Fontella Bass and Etta James. They also released their own recordings until they broke up in 1966. Minnie stayed with Chess, first recording as Andrea Davis and then becoming one of the lead vocalists in Rotary Connection, an integrated group that combined R&B with psychedelic rock. They recorded six albums, covering songs like the Band's "The Weight" and Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love." When they disbanded in 1970, Minnie recorded a solo album, Come to My Garden, for Chess' Janus label. The next year Riperton and her husband, Richard Rudolph, left Chicago and Chess behind for Gainesville, Florida. For two years, Minnie was "retired" from show business, and she spent the time raising her family and writing songs with Richard. But in 1973, she was tempted back into singing by Stevie Wonder, and she joined his backing vocal group, Wonderlove.
She toured with Wonder and sang on his Fullfillingness' First Finale album. In 1974, she was offered a contract by Don Ellis at Epic Records. After she signed, Wonder agreed to produce her first album for the label. The first single, "Reasons," failed to make the chart, and "Lovin' You" was released next. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 80 on January 18, 1975, and went to number one 11 weeks later.
In 1976 Minnie learned she had cancer. She had a mastectomy that year, and became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. President Jimmy Carter honored her with the society's Courage Award, presented in a White House ceremony in 1977.
She continued to be treated for the disease, while remaining active as a performer and recording artist. In 1978 she left Epic and signed with Capitol, and while recording her first album for the label, Minnie, learned she had lymph cancer. The album was completed in February, 1979. After her death, Capitol released the posthumous Love Lives Forever album, with instrumental and vocal backing by many of the friends who loved her, including George Benson, Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack and Stevie Wonder.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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