As KEXP celebrates its 50th anniversary, we're looking back at the last half-century of music. Each week in 2022, KEXP pays homage to a different year and our writers are commemorating with one song from that year that resonates with them. As we jump back to 1975, Larry Mizell Jr/ shares his reflections on Minnie Ripperton's "Inside Your Love." Read or listen to the essay below.
Minnie Riperton’s 1975 album Adventures In Paradise may not have been the smash success that her Perfect Angel had been the year prior, driven by her career-defining hit “Loving You”, but perhaps only because Paradise’s towering highpoint was deemed too scandalous by radio at the time.
“Inside My Love” was written by Riperton, her husband and collaborator Richard Rudolph, and Leon Ware—the writer/producer who’d score big the next year via I Want You, the sensual masterpiece he was at the time cutting with Marvin Gaye.
That song, among the sexiest works of a decade that defined sexy music, lyrically paints a picture of “two strangers, not strangers, only lacking the knowing”. In observance of this perhaps unexpected call in one another, Minnie affirms that they should be “inside each other”. “Will you come inside me”, she asks her partner, “do you wanna ride my love”. The ecstatic balance of poetic rapture and bold explicitness—indeed, the balance of a real-life, loving couple writing with love-man Ware—work together to achieve a homeostasis of deep, spiritual intimacy. Riperton’s incredible performance takes what could have been steamy hot tub runoff in lesser hands and imbues it with the blissful power of cosmic union.
Of course, that was perhaps missed by program directors around the country, as noted in the liner notes to the 2001 retrospective Petals: The Minnie Riperton Collection.
“There were programmers at stations that wouldn’t play the song because they felt it was too risqué,” Richard admits, “which was absurd! If you really look at the lyrics, it’s about a much more spiritual trip. There is a duality, but we always believed that to truly have love and to express that love physically, you have to have the other side of it – the emotional side. ‘While we’re here / The whole world is turning …’
That is one of my favorite lyrics of all time. When we performed it live, people would fall out. They could never believe it when Minnie held that note. Minnie would introduce it saying, 'This is the song that got me banned. But I got a letter from a nun who said that she didn't think anything was wrong with it at all. In fact, she kinda got off on it...'''
"All I can say is we understood that that was going to happen when we wrote the song,' Ware says, chuckling slyly at the memory. “Minnie was just as daring as I was."
Then, there is that stunning bit, that unforgettable 15 or so seconds just past the 3-minute mark, where Joe Sample’s exquisite Rhodes progressions provide thermals in which Riperton holds her mercurial soprano aloft, a crystalline bird hovering outside of time. As the song swirls back together full force, it feels like that first moment a couple finds, in private, when the dance ends, and the dam of restraint shatters like a wineglass. The otherworldly power of this moment echoed into the future, finding new resonance in the classic hip-hop era as the glowing soul of A Tribe Called Quest’s 1993 classic “Lyrics To Go”. Through that act of recontextualization, a new generation would be led back to this masterpiece of love-making (musically speaking), perhaps even the very song playing when they were themselves becoming more than a twinkle in their parents' eyes.
As KEXP celebrates its 50th anniversary, we're looking back at the last half-century of music. Each week in 2022, KEXP pays homage to a different year and our writers are commemorating with one song from that year that resonates with them. As we jump back to 2006, Martin Douglas shares his reflecti…
Emily Fox catches up with Leroy Skeers who goes by the name Leroy Henry on air. He DJed at KCMU from 1972-1975.