"Lovin' You" is a song recorded by American singer Minnie Riperton from her second studio album Perfect Angel (1974). It was written by Riperton and Richard Rudolph, produced by Rudolph and Stevie Wonder, and released as the album's fourth single on March 14, 1975.
The song peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 on April 5, 1975. Additionally, it reached number two on the UK Singles chart, and number three on the Billboard R&B chart. In the US, it ranked number 13 on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1975.
On April 8, 1975, "Lovin' You" was certified Gold in the US by the RIAA for sales in excess of 1,000,000 units. It was also certified Silver in the UK by BPI on May 1, 1975 for sales of 250,000 units.
BackgroundRichard Rudolph began composing "Lovin' You" in 1971, while he and Riperton were living in Chicago. The couple later moved to Florida, where work on the song continued after their daughter Maya was born in 1972. Riperton developed the final melody, while Rudolph wrote the lyrics and the bridge.
Riperton was offered a contract with Epic Records a few years later, and the couple moved to Los Angeles to record the album Perfect Angel. When Epic asked Riperton whom she wanted to produce the album, she named Stevie Wonder. Wonder, by then one of the biggest names in American popular music, was a fan of Riperton's work, and agreed to the collaboration.
However, Wonder was signed to Motown Records; so in order to avoid contract conflicts he was credited under the pseudonym "El Toro Negro", Spanish for "Black Bull", as Wonder's astrological sign is Taurus. For the same reason, Wonder only agreed to be a producer for the project as co-producer along with Rudolph, resulting in the production company Scorbu Productions being created specifically for the project.
"Lovin' You" was originally published in the key of A major in common time with a tempo of 72 beats per minute. Riperton's vocals span from C#4 to F#6.
According to the liner notes from Riperton's compilation album Petals, the melody for "Lovin' You" was created to be a distraction for her baby daughter (Maya Rudolph) so that Minnie and her husband Richard could hang out. Maya was in the studio with Riperton on the day it was recorded and Riperton can be heard singing her daughter's name at the end, but only in the unedited or album version. The song fades out early in the radio edit because the disc jockeys felt that the repeated "Maya" was being overdone and that it would be misunderstood as a religious chant.
InstrumentationThe original single version released to radio contained only Riperton's vocals, accompanied by electric piano and acoustic guitar. As with the rest of the album, the piano backing is played by Wonder. Rudolph played acoustic guitar for the track. After the single became popular, an alternate single version was created which added effects from an Arp string synth, likely in an effort to increase the complexity and depth of the otherwise simple-sounding song. This alternate 7" single version was released on the 2017 re-issue of the album, as Perfect Angel: Deluxe Edition.
"Lovin' You" was one of the first songs to top the US Billboard Hot 100 without the help of a percussion instrument.
The song is especially known for Riperton's use of the high whistle register in the song's bridge, and for the chirping songbirds heard throughout. Riperton stated that during the recording of the song's demo, the bird chirping was recorded accidentally. She said that it was kept in the song since it "seemed to work", and was included on the song's final version.
ReleaseRudolph and Riperton wanted Epic to release "Lovin' You" as a single, after seeing the song's effect on people while on tour to promote the album. Rudolph recalled: "We found ourselves performing in Portland one night during a huge blizzard. We look around and see that people are putting their arms around each other and having a great time as we're playing ‘Lovin' You.’". Epic initially refused, because they had planned to market Riperton as an R&B singer. However, Rudolph and Riperton prevailed, rejecting the R&B label and insisting that "[Riperton is] a singer, period".
The song was released on March 14, 1975 as the fourth single from Perfect Angel. It went on to become the album's most successful track, and Riperton's biggest hit. With "Lovin' You", Riperton became the first female artist on the Epic label with a debut song that reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Chart performanceIn the US, "Lovin' You" made its debut on the Billboard Hot 100 on January 18, 1975; twelve weeks later, on April 5, 1975, it peaked at number one. The song remained on the Hot 100 for a total of eighteen weeks. Ten weeks after entering the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, the song peaked at number four, on March 29, 1975, spending a total of fourteen weeks on the chart. Ten weeks after entering the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, the song peaked at number three, on March 29, 1975. It remained on the R&B chart for a total of seventeen weeks.
Critical receptionEd Hogan of AllMusic noted that Riperton's work is known for its simplicity, and that "Lovin' You" was consistent with this feature, stating that the song's "simple declaration of love" is enhanced by the "sparse, airy backdrop of chimey electric piano" in combination with "gentle acoustic guitar". Daryl Easlea of the BBC felt that "Lovin' You" was "one of the tenderest [songs] ever to grace the US top spot". Easlea referenced Riperton's chant-like repetition of daughter Maya's name at the end of the song, and declared that the song was "still as affecting now as when it was first heard". Classic Pop said that the song showcased Riperton's voice, being "virtually a capella" with no percussion and sparse instrumentation. The reviewer defined Riperton as a "brilliantly uncategorisable artist", and thought that the song was a perfect example of how difficult it would have been to define and thus market her as an artist. Marcus J. Moore of Pitchfork described "Lovin' You" as "remarkably affectionate" and a "sweet, acoustic lullaby that Riperton delivers wistfully". He felt that the song was an excellent example of Riperton's impressive five-and-a-half-octave vocal range, and praised Riperton's voice as a "dynamic, heart-rendering instrument that imparts love, caring, and tender romanticism in equal measure". Stevie Chick of The Guardian noted the song's "smartly spare production", with "dizzy electric piano" and "gentle acoustic guitar". He felt that Riperton's "effortless" vocals not only showed off her five-octave range, but also revealed "the sound of Riperton luxuriating in joy".
"Lovin' You" was ranked number forty-six on Billboards Top 50 Love Songs of All Time.
Track listings7" Single (1974) # "Lovin' You" – 3:20 # "The Edge Of A Dream" – 3:34
7" Single (1987) # "Lovin' You" – 3:20 # "Skylark - Wildflower" – 3:14
Charts and certifications
Other releasesOn December 1, 2017, Universal Music Enterprises remastered and re-issued Perfect Angel as Perfect Angel: Deluxe Edition, in commemoration of Riperton's 70th birthday. The album was released as a two-CD set, in both standard digital as well as high-resolution 96k/24-bit audio formats. The deluxe edition contained two alternate versions of "Lovin' You" in addition to the original. The first was a 7-inch single version that contained an Arp string synth overdub, as well as a countdown by Rudolph that was not present on the original version. The second alternate version included backing by Stevie Wonder's Wonderlove band, whereas the original "hit single" version had included only Riperton, Rudolph, and Wonder on vocals, guitar, and keyboards, respectively.
The Orb: A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the UltraworldIn 1989, English electronic music group The Orb released the song, "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld (Loving You)", as a single on their own label WAU! Mr. Modo Records. It was later released by Big Life on the band's debut album, The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (1991).
The single version was recorded live at Cortina D'Ampezzo on October 15, 1989 and released in November 1989; it managed to reach number 78 on the UK Singles Chart despite being almost 20 minutes in length. "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain..." consisted of various sound effects that were built around, and formed an ambient backdrop for, musical samples of Minnie Ripertons's "Lovin' You". The song is considered to be a definitive example of ambient house.
The initial single release was subtitled "Loving You", and contained samples taken directly from Riperton's recording. However, The Orb had not licensed the samples they had used of Riperton's vocals, and were forced to remove them. The single was reissued using vocals from a similar-sounding singer, so that only the copies from the single's first-week release contained Riperton's vocal samples; as a result, these copies are considered valuable.
Sal Cinquemani of Slant called the song "epic" and "the definitive ambient house track". He noted the "elegant tapestry of babbling brooks, crashing waves, crickets, chants, roosters, church bells, and various other modes of white noise" that was created to form a musical backdrop for the sample of Riperton's "Lovin' You". Brian Boyd of The Irish Times described the song as a breakthrough and landmark moment, which "went on to influence many a band, but none who could ever come near their idiosyncratic capabilities".
Within a week of the single's release, The Orb was invited by John Peel to record a live version of the song at the BBC's Maida Vale Studios (Studio 3) on December 3, 1989. Peel, the legendary DJ of BBC Radio 1, broadcast the live version on December 19, 1989, giving both the band and the song exposure to a much wider audience. The version that was played live on BBC Radio 1 included samples of Riperton's voice, and was ranked at number 10 on John Peel's year-end Festive Fifty for 1990, listed as "Loving You (Session)".
American R&B singer Shanice recorded a cover of "Lovin' You" for her second studio album, Inner Child (1991). The song was produced by Narada Michael Walden and released by Motown as the album's fourth single on August 11, 1992. It reached number 59 on the US Billboard R&B chart, and peaked at number 54 on the UK Singles chart. A remake of Shanice's original cover was also included on her album Every Woman Dreams (2006).
Shanice's five-octave vocal range, as well as her "rare coloratura soprano" abilities, were showcased by her cover of "Lovin' You". Tim Greggs of AllMusic was impressed with Shanice's voice, and compared her vocal abilities to that of Mariah Carey and Minnie Riperton. Greggs felt that her version of Riperton's song was "somewhat" comparable to the original. People described the cover as "cherubic", while Wilson & Alroy's felt it was lacking adequate emotion, though they noted that Shanice was able to handle the technical difficulties of the song.