Minnie Riperton was, of course, so much more than her 1976 smash “Loving You”. I won’t even attempt to jam her legacy into a blog post. She was a mother (to SNL alum Maya Rudolph), a lover, (to Dick Rudolph) and a righteous songbird. Riperton (pictured above, 1968 [photo courtesy jeff lockard]) and her soaring soprano were featured in the Rock-Soul outfit Rotary Connection. Rotary Connection was the jazzy soulful dirty hippie baby of genius producer Charles Stepney and Marshall Chess (son of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess, and a visionary in his own right).
Certainly their most anthologized track is “I am the Black Gold of the Sun” (above), but each of their albums produced its crop of nuggets (my favorites are “Songs”, “Hey Love”, and “Aladdin”). The sound was a cross-section of Rock, Gospel, Soul, and Jazz nearly as big as the City of Big Shoulders that spawned it. Featuring Minnie Riperton on lead vocals for a number of their cuts, her other-worldly wails are the sound that almost never was.
Below, my short audio interview with Sidney Barnes of Rotary Connection (pictured far right), on how Minnie Riperton got the strength to embrace her own voice in the days when sopranos weren’t considered soulful.