Her No. As part of the group Rotary Connection, Ripperton graduated from being the front-of-house girl at Chess to a becoming a member of one of the first black psych groups, whose ranks included the great Blue Thumb artist and guitarist Phil Upchurch. That grounding made her a natural for the solo life. With a post-Motown atmosphere and a much slicker emphasis on musicianship, Ripperton was one of the first female soul singers to utilise synths and early programming. There was a posthumous album, Love Lives Forever , and but a few choice compilations, but they are not enough. These days, Minnie Ripperton is the kind of singer that younger stars discover and revere Kate Bush is a huge fan. Renowned for her crystalline coloratura soprano, five-octave vocal range and the rare gift of being able to hit the upper register — a style that Mariah Carey emulated — Ripperton remains a largely unsung heroine. Time to take her out of the margins and belatedly put her into the spotlight.
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Her talent shines through on the compilation album Minnie Riperton: Her Chess Years , which features 16 songs recorded over the period , covering her work with girl band The Gems through to Chicago-based psychedelic soul group Rotary Connection. The Chicago-born Riperton was a trained opera singer who possessed a rare five-octave range, and few singers of her generation could match her vocal skills. After signing to Chess Records as a teenager, she served an apprenticeship as a backing vocalist before eventually achieving solo success, with one album produced by Wonder. Both feature her glittering falsetto high-notes. Riperton recorded six albums with Rotary Connection, including one that blended psychedelia, soul and Christmas.
The tragic death of year-old Minnie Riperton in silenced one of soul music's most unique and unforgettable voices. Blessed with an angelic five-octave vocal range, she scored her greatest commercial success with the chart-topping pop ballad "Lovin' You. As a youth she studied music, drama, and dance at the city's Abraham Lincoln Center and later contemplated a career in opera. Her pop career began in when she joined a local group called the Gems , signing to the famed Chess label to release a handful of singles as well as lend backing vocals to acts including Fontella Bass , the Dells , and Etta James. After graduating high school, Riperton went to work at Chess as a receptionist. Following the Gems ' dissolution, she also signed with the label as a solo act, releasing a single, "Lonely Girl," under the alias Andrea Davis. In , Riperton was installed as the lead vocalist of the psychedelic soul band Rotary Connection , which debuted that year with a self-titled LP on Cadet Concept. The singles "Amen" and "Lady Jane" found a home on underground FM radio, but the group failed to make much of an impression on mainstream outlets.
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. On April 5, , Riperton reached the apex of her career with her No. The single was the last release from her gold album titled Perfect Angel. In January , Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer , and in April, she underwent a radical mastectomy. Despite the grim prognosis , she continued recording and touring. She was one of the first celebrities to go public with a breast cancer diagnosis, but she did not disclose that she was terminally ill. In , she became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. Riperton died of cancer on July 12, at age