When singer Minnie Riperton died from breast cancer on July 12, 1979, she was listening to a song Stevie Wonder had written especially for her, according to her husband, Dick Rudolph.
On Sunday, Wonder will again sing for Riperton. He is the headliner of a benefit concert at the Universal Amphitheatre launching the Minnie Riperton Fund, a venture administered through the Concern Foundation for Cancer Research.
“When I asked Stevie if he’d do the show, he said, ‘Don’t you dare ask anyone else--I’m doing this and that’s it,’ ” said Rudolph, a record producer and film music supervisor. He said the same was true for record producer and composer-arranger Quincy Jones, who is serving as the event’s honorary chairman, and television producer Pierre Cossette, who is producing the concert.
Riperton, known for the high end of her remarkable vocal range, found out she had cancer just a year and a half after her song “Loving You” (also written for her by Wonder) went to the top of the charts in 1975. After a mastectomy and chemotherapy failed to abate the cancer, she became an active crusader in the fight against the disease, serving as national education chairwoman of the American Cancer Society.
She died having recorded just two solo albums, and Rudolph later assembled a tribute album, “Love Lives Forever,” using Riperton’s vocals from incomplete recordings. But he stressed that neither the fund-raising organization nor Sunday’s event, intended to be the first annual benefit concert for the organization, is meant as merely a tribute to his late wife.
“It’s not a memorial or a testimonial,” Rudolph said. “But having Minnie’s name tied to it personalizes the issue and helps people in the music industry to rally to support it.”