Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Music: Rotary Connection

It's funny how youthful memories often come with a soundtrack. One of my earliest is of bouncing on the back seat of the Falcon, in time to "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis and The Playboys. In 1975, I spent much of the summer floating in a pool and chasing an elusive tan. After I saw a video of Minnie Riperton singing "Lovin' You," I could almost smell the chlorine. Yes, boy in my Spanish class who is unaware of my existence, "Looovin' you is easy 'cause you're beau-ti-ful..." Riperton, who had a nearly six octave (!) range, came out of semi-retirement to record the album Perfect Angel, which included the single "Lovin' You." She had stopped performing to raise a family with songwriter/producer Richard Rudolph.

Minnie Riperton was a Chicago native who, because of her vocal gifts, was encouraged to train for the opera. Instead, she recorded with girl group The Gems, and did backup singing for other artists. In 1966, she joined the psychedelic soul band Rotary Connection. Marshall Chess, the son of the founder of Chess Records, recruited Charles Stepney as producer and arranger, and added the members of the rock band The Proper Strangers, with whom Riperton sometimes performed.

Although admired by critics, Rotary Connection failed to gain any traction outside of the Chicago area. It could have been aesthetics, but more likely it was poor marketing. Although the musical arrangements are sometimes over the top, as is the hippy-dippy philosophizing, such was the zeitgeist. After all, "Reach Out Of The Darkness," a hilariously earnest song by Friend and Lover, reached number ten on the U.S. charts.

Riperton met her husband while a member of Rotary Connection. Their daughter is actress and comedienne Maya Rudolph, best known for her work in SNL. Minnie Riperton died in 1979, after a long battle with breast cancer. She was only 31.


Anonymous said...

That would be the 1961 red Falcon as opposed to the radio-less 1962 red Falcon. How did we get so lucky as to actually have a car with a radio? Maybe dad just didn't notice when he bought it--or maybe the thought of owning two red falcons was so delightful that his desire to own only a car Cotton Mather could have loved was temporarily suspended. Radios, power windows, automatic transmissions, floor boards, tires with treads...bah, who needs 'em?

The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

Oh yeah, an even *earlier* memory of mine is seeing the road passing beneath us through the rust holes in the Chevy!