Today in music history, July 12, is the forty-first death anniversary of soul singer-songwriter Minnie Ripperton. She is best known for the 1975 hit "Lovin' You," and for her regular tapping of her whistle register while singing.

On July 12, 1979, at 10:00 AM, Minnie Riperton passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. She died in the arms of her husband, songwriter and record producer Richard Rudolph. Minnie was only 31 years old at the time.

She first publicly revealed her battle with cancer on August 24, 1976. Minnie appeared on The Tonight Show, then hosted by Johnny Carson, to disclose that she had undergone a mastectomy procedure because of breast cancer. According to the "UnSung: Minnie Riperton" documentary, by the time Minnie was diagnosed, her cancer has already spread to her lymphatic system. She was given by her doctors six months to live.

Today in Music History
(Photo : Epic Records via Wiki Commons)
Minnie Riperton died on July 12, 1979 at age 31.

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However, Riperton continued touring in 1977-1978. In the following year, she appeared as the national spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society's 1978-1979 campaign. By the start of 1979, she would lose control of her right arm due to extreme lymphedema. Her final TV appearance was notable that her right arm remains fixed, as with the Mike Douglas Show.

The Queen of the Whistle

As a singer, Minnie Riperton had a five-octave vocal range classified as a coloratura soprano. She started her career at 15 years old as a member of the Chicago female vocal group The Gems.

When a member left, they became a session backing group known as Studio Three. During this point, Minnie provided backing vocals for many of the popular artists at the time. The Studio Three backed up Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Etta James, and Ramsey Lewis. One of their most popular works was on Fontella Bass' 1965 hit "Rescue Me."

Minnie Riperton released her solo debut album, "Come to My Garden," in 1970. It was arranged and produced by Charles Stepney, known for his work with Rotary Connection and Earth, Wind, and Fire. As a solo artist, she was first presented by Ramsey Lewis at Chicago's piece of music history - London House.

"Lovin' You"

Ripperton reached the peak of her career in 1975, with the release of her timeless classic "Lovin' You." Its music video famously featured the singer in a simple white dress, with flowers in her hair, singing to soft guitar accompaniment. Birds can be heard chirping during the intro. Minnie also effortlessly displays her signature whistle, earning her the nickname "Queen of the Whistle Register" down in music history.

The song was first released as a part of her sophomore album, "Perfect Angel," in 1974. It was later released as a single in January 1975.

It topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, in its chart dated April 5, 1975. It climbed up to the third spot of the Billboard R&B Singles Chart. Overseas, "Lovin' You" peaked at the second spot on the UK Singles Chart.

By April 8 of that year, the Riperton hit was already certified as a Gold Record by the RIAA, for surpassing the 1 million unit sales mark.

As a simple yet catchy love song, "Lovin' You" has been covered by many artists in various genres. The British electro and house music group The Orb released "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld." The ambient house track, which contained a mix of nature sound effects and sci-fi radio shows, prominently features "Lovin' You" in the first half.

By 1992, Shanice covered an R&B version of the song. Her version was released as a part of her second studio album, 1991's "Inner Child."