A word from the Chef…
If you’re stopping by on your way from Four Brothers Beats, welcome and thank you for choosing Fufu Stew. I hope you enjoy your visit, and please feel free to browse around. There’s lots to tasty goods here for your aural consumption. Enjoy…
Today I would like you all to indulge me for just a few fleeting moments. I’ve been pretty amazed at how well this AntiDivas series has been recieved by all of you. With that in mind, I think it is high time that I extol the virtues of another trailblazer, one whose talents in some cases still go virtually unheard by the masses. This post inspired by two of my favourite blogging colleagues, Sister Lily Kane and HeavySoulBrutha Dave B. To both of you, I say thanks for helping me to get the courage to do this, and the mix that I sent you back in the summer is now a one of a kind. I broke that mold in favour of this one. Read on…
Dateline: 1974. A sparse, yet extremely lush production was completed and later became an unlikely anthem for lovers the world over. The song was called “Lovin’ You”, and the voice behind the song belonged to one Minnie Riperton. A voice like this has yet to be equalled. Period. While some may argue that Mariah Carey’s “Vision Of Love” equals, if not surpasses that quality, I personally feel that such is not the case. Ms. Riperton is the undisputed mother of the Neo Soul movement without question, but as you are about to witness, she was capable of so much more. Some three decades have passed since her tragic death in 1979 (and I can still recall the events leading up to that fateful day), and now is the time where this fine talent’s accomplishments should be truly recognised.
Life began for Minnie 8 November 1947 with seven siblings ahead of her. A short while later she was already involved with performing via dance instruction at Chicago’s Lincoln Center. Later on the music bug hit her in the form of classical training, mainly operattas which resulted in her crystalline five octave vocal range, one that is so reminiscent of Yma Sumac. Before she was old enough to drive, she landed a gig with Chess as a member of the short lived girl group the Gems. During that time, as is well documented, she also lent her vocals backing up such heavyweights as Etta James and Little Milton, along with working the front offices of the label as a receptionist. Andrea Davis soon followed almost unnoticed by anyone who didn’t live in Chicago, but fortunately this tenure did yield a few charting singles.
Fast forward to 1967, and enter young upstart Marshall Chess, who was very much smitten by the revolution of Psychedelia and such. This compelled him to start a record label and gather up a handful of talent, most notably the late Charles Stepney (of Earth, Wind & Fire fame), Sidney Barnes along with various musicians and inevitably, Minnie was on board. The result was Progressive Rock legend The
Rotary Connection which fueled Minnie’s need for the changing times, musically and otherwise. The sound they created with their readings of many of the hits of the day was nothing short of incredible in all of their many genre bending facets. During that time Minnie would be pushed to the head of the class in a manner of speaking, which led to a solo LP (“Come To My Garden”) while still assuming Rotary duties. This lasted all of four short years yielding six records that are all definitely worth owning.
Then along came Stevie Wonder’s deep album cut classic “Bird Of Beauty” from 1974’s “Fulfillingness’ First Finale”, a brief stint as a member of his backing vocal group Wonderlove, and then finally “Perfect Angel”. Of course that record contained “Lovin’ You”. Soon thereafter her cancer diagnosis became public and she became a spokesperson for cancer awareness, leading to her being given the American Cancer Society’s Courage Award in 1977 by then President Jimmy Carter.
The one poignant moment I vividly recall was her 1979 appaerance on the Mike Douglas Show. It became painfully clear that her life was slipping away, and on 12 July 1979 it did just that.
For the longest time her rich discography remained obscure and rare at best, fetching hefty sums in the way of imported CDs from Japan. Not until just three short years ago, the complete discography remained unissued. Please give this legend your own assessment and judge for yourself.
Part One: By herself
01 Introspeak by Don Cornelius
02 Lonely Girl (as Andrea Davis)
03 Les Fleurs
04 Memory Band
05 Close Your Eyes & Remember
06 Oh, By The Way
07 Interspeak by Don Cornelius and Stevie Wonder
08 Bird Of Beauty (Performed by Stevie Wonder, from “Fulfillingness’ First Finale”)
10 Interspeak by Don Cornelius and Stevie Wonder
11 Take A Little Trip
12 Interspeak by Don Cornelius and Stevie Wonder
13 Perfect Angel
14 Seeing You This Way (Acoustic Demo Version)
16 Every Time He Comes Around
17 Inside My Love
18 Feelin’ That The Feeling’s Good
19 Stay In Love
20 Interspeak by Don Cornelius and Stevie Wonder
21 Never Existed Before
22 Dancin’ & Actin’ Crazy
23 Love Hurts
24 Interspeak by Don Cornelius and Stevie Wonder
25 Light My Fire (with Jose Feliciano)
There is also the classic posthumous release, aptly titled “Love Lives Forever” featuring an all star cast including Peabo Bryson, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Patrice Rushen just to name a few. This record contained the Quiet Storm anthem “Here We Go”. A true testament indeed. Yes, the sound bites were pulled from a special episode of Soul Train which aired just shortly after Minnie’s passing. With the exception of two performances by Whitley Phipps, the entire show was dedicated to her memory. A good handful of the images you see here were captured from that show. If you head over to Fufu Snax, there’s a extra special surprise waiting for you…
Part Two: with the Rotary Connection, featuring names such as Sidney Barnes, Judy Hauff, Bobby Simms, Kenney Venegas and Mitch Aliotta. Notable musicians include session giants Charles Stepney, Pete Cosey, Philip Upchurch and Louis Satterfield.
01 Introspeak by Stevie Wonder… Rapid Transit
02 Turn Me On
03 Lady Jane
04 Memory Band
05 Life Could
06 Magical World
07 I Took A Ride (Caravan)
09 Tales Of Brave Ulysses
10 We’re Going Wrong
11 The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
12 We Will Be Free
13 Stormy Monday
15 Love Me Now
16 If I Sing My Song
17 I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun
18 Love Is
19 Vine Of Happiness
There’s supposed to be a seventh Rotary album circa 1973, but Minnie had long since gone on hiatus in preperation for her true moment in the sun as a solo artist. I for one will always miss her. She was and still is one of the single most important singers of our time.
Please download and enjoy AntiDivas No. 5 and 5 1/2 (mixed mp3 files now available), and then head over to your favourite outlet, virtual or otherwise, and delve deeper into the legacy left behind by the ultimate AntiDiva. You’ll find the appropriate links below…
Peace and blessings.
Happy birthday, Minnie. I love you…