Riperton is most known for her 1975 chart-topping hit “Lovin’ You,” which she co-wrote with her husband, Richard Rudolph. The song was produced by Stevie Wonder and features the singer’s impressive whistle register, the highest register of the human voice, lying above the modal register and falsetto register.
For her five-octave vocal range, Riperton is regarded as the “Queen of the whistle register.”
The singer-songwriter grew up on Chicago’s South Side, where she studied music, drama and dance at the Lincoln Center. As a teen, she joined the local girl group Gem. Riperton later attended Loop College, where she became a member of Zeta Phi Beta before dropping out to pursue a music career.
In the ’60s, she worked as a background singer for legendary acts including Muddy Waters, Etta James and Chuck Berry. From 1967 to 1971, the singer-songwriter was the lead vocalist for the rock-soul group Rotary Connection.
Three years later, she released her debut solo album, Perfect Angel, which went gold.
In January 1976, Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. She was one of the first celebrities to publicly share her diagnosis, becoming a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society in 1977.
The soprano died on July 12, 1979, at 31, leaving behind two children, music engineer Marc Rudolph and SNL star Maya Rudolph.