MINNIE RIPERTON / “Minnie Riperton Mixtape”
I love Minnie Riperton (probably me and at least a zillion other men who were around in the seventies). But what I mean is that my love for Minnie Riperton has grown, expanded and deepened as I’ve grown older. Every time I go back to her music I am reminded that Minnie was not only a quintessential free spirit, she was also a warrior woman totally committed to honesty, fearlessly committed. Look at her. You don’t see ostentatious glitz and pretensions, nor amoral aspirations to be rich and famous. Listen closely to her lyrics. Yes, she dreamed of achieving a major career as an entertainer but there’s nothing inane or juvenile about her music. Who makes music this deep today? Even though she didn’t survive the seventies, Chicago-born (November 8, 1947) Minnie Julia Riperton was very much a child of her times. Like most who heard her, I was blown away by her five-octave soprano voice, but what really impressed me was how much she embraced life, especially once she was diagnosed with a serious illness. One evening in 1976 Minnie went on the Johnny Carson Show. Flip Wilson was the substitute host. He was prepared to do his silly shit, chitchat, and act a fool till Minnie blew his little mind. With the kind of candor that is seldom if ever the hallmark of television, Minnie discussed her 1976 mastectomy operation and her struggles with breast cancer. Minnie died of cancer on July 12, 1979 at the age of 31. She fought it all the way. After her operation, rather than retiring from public view, sister Minnie Riperton decided to lead the crusade to raise awareness and public education about breast cancer. She knew she was going to die. She kept performing. Kept recording. And kept on being a spokesperson in the struggle around breast cancer. She didn’t have a major string of number one hit songs but she crafted some incredibly passionate songs of identity and personal humanity. Her songs exceeded the vapid platitudes that often pass for “message” music. Plus, she was always ready to be “dancing and acting crazy,” enjoying life. Minnie Riperton was a real woman. Indeed, one of her songs proclaims just that, “I’m A Woman.” What smote me mightily about Minnie was that her seriousness never soured her. She smiled and loved life even as life was killing her. She sang serious songs one minute and fun loving anthems the next. When she dropped “Inside My Love” it was too much for mainstream radio. A woman inviting her lover to come inside her, and doing so in a beautiful voice with nary even a hint of salaciousness. The status quo found some of Minnie’s music a bit much but she stayed on the case advocating both power to the people and love for the people on both a personal and a mass level. What I dig most is that she figured out how to make the personal political and how to advocate the political at a personal level. She could sing “Young, Willing And Able” and then follow up with “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun.” Minnie’s music is music for adults who are young at heart. I don’t know who has picked up Minnie’s banner in this new millennium but for sure somebody needs to get on the case. Meanwhile, I’ll keep listening to Minnie, keep loving this wonderful woman who modeled what it meant to be both an advocate and a lover of life. —Kalamu ya Salaam Minnie Riperton Mixtape Playlist The Best Of Minnie Riperton 01 “Young Willing And Able” 02 “Lover And Friend” 03 “Can You Feel What I'm Saying?” 04 “Adventures In Paradise” Stay In Love/Minnie 05 “Dancin' And Actin' Crazy” 06 “Love Hurts” 07 “Never Existed Before” 08 “I'm A Woman” 09 “Light My Fire” 10 “Return To Forever” 11 “Young, Willing And Able” 12 “Could It Be I'm In Love” Love Lives Forever 13 “Strange Affair” 14 “Here We Go” Perfect Angel/Adventures in Paradise 15 “Simple Things” 16 “Lovin' You” 17 “Our Lives” 18 “Inside My Love” Les Fleurs 19 “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun” The Best Of Minnie Riperton 20 “Memory Lane” 21 “Perfect Angel” 22 “Woman Of Heart And Mind”
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