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Maya Rudolph's Mother Minnie Riperton Sang Songs You Definitely Know

May 11 SNL Host Maya Rudolph was born into a musical family (she's been in a few bands herself!). Here's what to know about her late mom, singer Minnie Riperton.

By Samantha Vincenty

May 11 Saturday Night Live Host Maya Rudolph is best known for her work as a comedian and actress, from her seven years as an SNL cast member to roles in shows like LOOT and hit films like Bridesmaids. But Rudolph also possesses singing talents that extend beyond her vocal stylings in many an SNL sketch. And she was born into a musical family: Rudolph's mother, Minnie Riperton, was a soul singer whose most famous song was co-written with her dad as a lullaby for Rudolph and her brother. 

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Over the span of a prolific career cut short by her death in 1979, Minnie Riperton was celebrated for her five-octave range. Trained as an opera singer in childhood, her whistle register high note rivaled that of Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande's, and was a signature in several of her best-known songs.

"When I was a little girl, I would stand on the side of the stage and watch my mom singing out there in beautiful gowns. She was a diva in the most exquisite sense," Rudolph told Interview magazine in 2013. "Those are very vivid memories for me. I always had the idea of wanting to be on a stage, in these beautiful gowns, with a microphone in my hand, and that comes from my mom."

RELATED: Watch Maya Rudolph's Sketches + Monologue from SNL's Mother's Day Episode

Here's everything to know about Maya Rudolph's mother, Minnie Riperton, and her singing career. 

Split of Maya Rudolph and Minnie Riperton

Minnie Riperton's songs include "Lovin' You," a lullaby for Maya Rudolph

After singing in a doo-wop group and a psychedelic soul band, Riperton also provided vocals for artists like Stevie Wonder before she recorded her most famous album, 1974's Perfect Angel, when Maya Rudolph was two years old. The album featured co-writing, composition, and co-production from Maya's father Richard Rudolph, and Stevie Wonder himself. 

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In fact, Riperton's best-known song, "Lovin' You," was written by Maya's parents as a lullaby for her and her older brother, Marc. After she hits a super-high note toward the end of "Lovin' You," you can hear Riperton softly sing, "Maya, Maya," repeatedly.

Minnie Riperton in concert on November 8, 1974

Riperton's other well-known songs include "Les Fleur," which was used to striking effect at the end of Jordan Peele's 2019 film, Us, and has been heard in TV shows and commercials.

"Inside My Love," from her 1975 Adventures in Paradise album, has been sampled by rap artists including Tribe Called Quest (who also sampled Riperton's "Baby, This Love I Have" on their hit "Check the Rhime") and J. Cole. 

"My mom was music. Music poured out of my mother, and I'm sure I heard it before I even got here when I was in her belly," Rudolph told NPR's Fresh AirAs collaborators, her parents "were on the road a lot. My brother and I would go with them, I think when we were very little, because my mom did not want to be away from us. [... ]I do remember losing a tooth in Reno and getting a chip from the casino."

Minnie Riperton's husband, Richard Rudolph: Maya's father

Riperton and Richard Rudolph, a producer and songwriter, met in Chicago in the stairwell of a rock club, Maya Rudolph told the New York Times. They married in 1970 and were still married at the time of Riperton's death.

Riperton and Rudolph had two children together, Marc and Maya Rudolph. Their collaboration was also professional, as Rudolph composed music for Riperton and the couple wrote and produced songs together. 

Minnie Riperton, her husband Richard Rudolph and children Maya Rudolph and Marc Rudolph attend the Hollywood Christmas Parade in December 1978

Rudolph has written and produced music for artists such as Chaka Khan, The Temptations, and Tupac Shakur, according to People, in addition to creating music for movies. He raised Maya and Marc in Los Angeles after Riperton's death.

Minnie Riperton died of breast cancer in 1978

Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1976, per People. She was just 29 years old. After undergoing a mastectomy that same year, Riperton became a national advocate for breast cancer awareness, and was the first Black woman to be education chairwoman for the American Cancer Society. 

She died in 1979, two weeks before Maya Rudolph's 7th birthday.

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Maya Rudolph makes music like her mom

In addition to her contributions to songs in projects she's acted in, such as Big Mouth and Disenchanted, Rudolph's been a member in several bands over the years. 

Rudolph, who portrayed Beyoncé in SNL's "Prince Show" sketches, has a Prince cover band called Princess, which performed alongside D'Angelo on The Tonight Show. Her music projects prior to SNL included being a keyboard player in The Rentals with then-Weezer member Matt Sharp (she's the one in the green shirt!).

"For many years of my life, it was too much," Rudolph told uDiscover in 2019, in regards to thinking about the loss of her mom at such a young age. "But then I grew up, and I took such enormous pride in knowing that she really stands out as this individual, as this one-of-a-kind, gem of human being, of a recording artist, of a performer and really… of a woman.”