Minnie Julia Riperton-Rudolph (November 8, 1947 – July 12, 1979), known professionally as Minnie Riperton, was an American singer-songwriter best known for her 1975 single “Lovin’ You”. She was married to songwriter and music producer Richard Rudolph from 1972 until her death in 1979. They had two children: music engineer Marc Rudolph and actress/comedienne Maya Rudolph.
Riperton grew up on Chicago’s South Side. As a child, she studied music, drama, and dance at Chicago’s Lincoln Center. In her teen years, she sang lead vocals for the Chicago-based girl group, The Gems. Her early affiliation with the legendary Chicago-based Chess Records afforded her the opportunity to sing backup for various established artists such as Etta James, Fontella Bass, Ramsey Lewis, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Muddy Waters. While at Chess, Riperton also sang lead for the experimental rock/soul group Rotary Connection, from 1967 to 1971. In 1969 Riperton, along with Rotary Connection, played in the first Catholic Rock Mass at the Liturgical Conference National Convention, Milwaukee Arena, Milwaukee, WI, produced by James F. Colaianni. On April 5, 1975, Riperton reached the apex of her career with her #1 single, “Lovin’ You”. The single was the last release from her 1974 gold album entitled Perfect Angel.
In January 1976, Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy. By the time of diagnosis, the cancer had metastasized and she was given about six months to live. Despite the grim prognosis, she continued recording and touring. She was one of the first celebrities to go public with her breast cancer diagnosis, but did not disclose she was terminally ill. In 1977, she became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. In 1978, she received the American Cancer Society’s Courage Award which was presented to her at the White House by President Jimmy Carter. She died at age 31 on July 12, 1979.