Marcus Dowling appreciates…Minnie Ripperton

by Marcus K. Dowling

I believe that new is boring and that history is inspirational. These opinions are not necessarily the views of the Couch Sessions. “Marcus Dowling appreciates…” celebrates the memories that define the future. Enjoy.

If you think Drake’s emotional ramblings from 2011 are better served coming from the mouth of a woman, please be aware that they already have. Thus begins my appreciation of Minnie Ripperton.

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Hearing Ripperton sing is akin to marveling at the glow of a firefly trapped in a Mason jar on a summer evening. You’re certain it will be gone too soon, but too overwhelmed by its simple beauty to let it free. A hippie-inspired session singer turned mainstream superstar with a heart of gold, she was every other singers favorite singer, and according to all published reports humble in the face of such acclaim. On 1975’s sparse and idyllic “Lovin’ You,” her most phenomenal gift, a ranging into deliriously beautiful soprano voice was displayed. The song, likely the cornerstone upon which any discussion of plaintive beauty through sound is built, unimpeachably stands the test of time.

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There are a multitude of other artists, male and female, Drake included whose career motivations were crafted in Ripperton’s influential style. Singers like Mariah Carey had the pipes, but in melding her style to heavier pop norms lose the unadorned immediacy where Minnie dominated. The aforementioned Toronto emcee brings Ripperton’s bittersweet sensibilities to hip hop, but in being the price with all the toys can’t approach the legendary singer as Cinderella, a plain princess with access to the throne, surrounded by divas aiming to be queen.

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Personally, I hold 1970 debut album cut “Les Fleurs” and 1979’s hit single “Memory Lane” as favorites. A tender blossom at the start and effortlessly glorious rose at the end, they bookend Ripperton’s stellar career with perfection. “Les Fleurs” is a study of seed to flower set to rhythm, Ripperton excelling in minimalist glory. “Memory Lane?” Reflecting on her battle with breast cancer and seemingly aware that her days amongst the living were short in number, it is a scenic journey through a charmed life, the perfect coda cementing an otherworldly melody.

If needing a reason to turn the dial from the faux emo intonations of commercial pop, turn back the clock, and as one of her classics says, reside “inside (her) love.” Possibly the greatest female vocalist of all time is patiently waiting for you. Always appreciate Minnie Ripperton.