Born as Minnie Julia Riperton in Chicago on November 8, 1947. Her first professional singing engagement was with The Gems, when she was 15. The Gems had relatively limited commercial success, but proved to be a good outlet for Riperton’s talent. Eventually the group became a session group known as Studio Three and it was during this period that they provided the backing vocals on the classic 1965 Fontella Bass hit ‘Rescue Me’. In 1964, The Gems released a local hit, ‘I Can’t Help Myself’, and their last single, ‘He Makes Me Feel So Good’, was released in 1965.
While a part of Studio Three, Riperton met her mentor, producer Billy Davis, who wrote her first local hit, ‘Lonely Girl’, as well as ‘You Gave Me Soul’. She used the pseudonym Andrea Davis for the release of those two singles. Riperton then joined Rotary Connection, a funky rock-soul group creation of Marshall Chess, the son of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess. Between 1967 and 1970 they released five albums.
Riperton’s first solo album, ‘Come To My Garden’, was released in 1970 by GRT Records. The album was commercially unsuccessful and she retired from the music business. In 1973, a college intern for Epic Records found Riperton in semi-retirement. She had become a homemaker and a mother of two in Gainesville, Florida. The rep took a demo from Riperton to Epic Records, and she was signed. Riperton moved to Los Angeles, California and recorded the album ‘Perfect Angel’. Sales of the album started out slow. It was only when the fourth single, ‘Lovin’ You’ was released that the album caught on. Both the single and the album became worldwide hits. She released two more albums on Epic. In January 1976, Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy. By the time of diagnosis, she was given about six months to live. Despite the grim prognosis, she continued recording and touring. In April 1979, Riperton released her fifth and final album on Capitol Records, ‘Minnie’. During the recording of the album, her cancer progressed to the point that she was in a great deal of pain.
By mid-June, she was confined to bed. She died on July 12, 1979 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Kate mentions Minnie Riperton as ‘Minnie’ in the lyrics of her song Blow Away (For Bill).