Lovin’ You by Minnie Riperton (Epic, 1975)

mrly45

When I was younger, I had a good-size backyard to run around in. My parents put the stereo speakers in the windows of one of our bedrooms and would open them up while playing music, so that I would have soundtrack to all of my backyard adventures. A song like Lovin’ You was especially welcome while I was outside. It felt like Minnie was singing around me wherever I ran and the birds were chirping just overhead. Listening to Minnie’s voice and Stevie’s electric piano was like taking a long warm bath. And no wonder it was comforting to me as a child, for Minnie originally came up with the tune as a lullaby for her daughter, Maya.

In fact, we were lucky to ever hear of Minnie Riperton at all. This song was written and recorded by Minnie & husband, Richard Rudolph at the last minute (which we all know is a recipe for success – see half of the #1s of all time). It was 4th single released from the 1974 LP, Perfect Angel and only got that release after a few soft rock station reported airplay on it. Cause Lovin’ You wasn’t really a song that typified Minnie’s style, save for the high octave singing. She could go from rock to soul to jazz to pop, which didn’t help get a foothold in any of those genres.

After a brief stint in the 60s psychedelic soul band, Rotary Connection and a 1970 solo LP, Come To My Garden, Minnie spent her time raising two kids rather than actively pursue a longer music career. The story goes that an intern at Epic Records her a demo of Minnie’s and brought it to the label head’s attention. They tracked her down in Florida and asked her if she’d like to record an album for them. So she packed up the family, moved to L.A. and recorded Perfect Angel. The album was out for 7 months before Lovin’ You got released and eventually hit #1, fittingly in the first week of April.

That was the lucky part, and as you know luck never goes anywhere without timing. Minnie was diagnosed with breast cancer only 8 months after her #1 hit and told she had only 6 months to live. She laughed in the her doctor’s face and lived another 3 1/2 years, touring and releasing 3 more LPs, gathering a legion of fans who reveled her smooth soul-jazz which would be rediscovered by the UK soul-jazz scene of the late 80s & 90s and by the hip-hop community who generously sample her recordings. Ali Shaheed Muhammed, DJ of A Tribe Called Quest has used many of her songs on their recordings. And we all know Mariah Carey has tried to base her career off of imitating Minnie’s vocal range. But as Minnie would so eloquently put it in her song,’ no one else can make me feel the colors that you bring…

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2 Comments

  1. barelyawakeinfrogpajamas

     /  January 27, 2013

    I heard this the other morning on Sirius and when she got to the “Maya Maya Maya” part I had to wonder – is there another hit song that references someone who would become famous later?

    Reply
  2. Steve E.

     /  January 28, 2013

    I didn’t hear the “Maya Maya Maya” closing for years, because it was faded out on the single. And even at that, I didn’t appreciate the significance until Maya Rudolph talked about her mother on a “Mother’s Day” special for “Saturday Night Live,” and then she played that fade-out. And Barely Awake asks a great question above.

    Reply

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