“Your wealth can be stolen, but the precious riches buried deep in your soul cannot.” – Minnie Riperton (1947-1979)
With a five-octave vocal range and a unique ability to reach the highest register of the human voice with the ease of bird taking to flight, Minnie Riperton will rightfully be remembered as one of the greatest soul singers of all time, but her legacy is also graced by the use of her voice in the secondary sense.
As the youngest of eight children in a musical family Riperton, from an early age, was bombarded with the racket of different tastes in every room, seeding a passion for the arts in her from an early age. When her parents recognised her youthful talent and passion, they took her to Chicago’s Lincoln Centre, where she received operatic vocal training. There, she learned the classical skills that would later colour her soul output with grand concert hall bravura air.
After a long while bouncing around the music industry in various roles, she finally found herself star the show when GRT Records recognised her unique talents and gave Riperton a shot at solo work. She rewarded them with the masterful Come to My Garden, but sadly it failed commercially. The record featured what is undoubtedly her best song, ‘Les Fleurs’, a track that bristles with the sonic Mohammad Ali self-assurance of floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Inexplicably even this all-giving triumph flopped. A career in the background of the music industry, however, meant Riperton had a solid backbone and enough faith in her own ability to stomach the blow.
Three fallow years followed, where her angelic voice was fated to mature on the sidelines. She was now a mother of two living in Gainesville, Florida and her life was far removed from the cutthroat music scene that had allowed her to drift away unnoticed. With the sort of voice that could part clouds and stir honey into tea from the next state over, she wasn’t to be silenced for long. A college intern at Epic Records had been spellbound by her debut, and she was flown over to Los Angeles to record what would end up being her best-selling album, Perfect Angel. With huge singles like ‘Lovin’ You’, her stardom was secured.
The song was penned by Riperton, and Richard Rudolph and the pair later enlisted the help of Stevie Wonder for the production side of things. It soared straight to number one and was quickly certified Gold.
Sweeping along at a sanguine pace akin to a summer breeze, the track pushes Riperton’s vocal range from C♯4 to F♯6 and not only does she not miss a note along the way, but she also fills each one of them with the gentle ease of performative individualism. In short, of all the vocal takes we have featured on Far Out over the years, this is surely amongst the very best of them.