Rotary Connection – “Sunshine of Your Love”

Rotary Connection were a band made up of Vocals – Minnie Riperton / Sidney Barnes, Jon Stocklin on Guitar, Jeremiah on Bass. Ken Venegas on Organ & Bobby Simms on Drums. I am in love with this band, and it’s so sad that they didn’t last that long and even sadder, that Minnie was taken from us so soon. I can only imagine all of the great things she would have accomplished had she still been here!

It’s refreshing to listen to Minnie’s voice, and yet at the same time, it still hurts that she is gone. It’s almost like losing a family member, if that makes any sense.

Rotary Connection was a psychedelic soul band formed in Chicago in 1966 that lasted until 1971, and are possibly most notable for launching the formal singing career of a Chess Records’ receptionist named Minnie Riperton. The highly experimental band was formed under artistic direction of Charles Stepney, at the behest of Marshall Chess, the then 25 year old son of Chess Records co-founder Leonard Chess.

Marshall was the director behind a start-up label, Cadet Concept Records, and wanted to focus on music outside of the blues and rock genres, which had made the Chess label popular. This led Marshall to turn his attention to the burgeoning psychedelic movement. He recruited Charles Stepney, a vibraphonist and classically-trained arranger and producer for sonic wizardry. Marshall then recruited members of a little-known white rock band, The Proper Strangers (Bobby Simms, Mitch Aliotta & Ken Venegas). Sidney Barnes, a songwriter within the Chess organization, also joined, as did Judy Hauff and a Chess receptionist named Minnie Riperton, who would later be successful in her own solo career. Marshall also called up prominent session musicians associated with the Chess label, including guitarist Phil Upchurch and drummer Morris Jennings.

The band released their self-titled debut album in late 1967. It plays like a melange of styles, borrowing heavily from pop, rock, and soul, but in a way that isn’t entirely radio-friendly. The album also boasts an Eastern influence through its use of the sitar on Turn Me On and Memory Band. Stepney’s arrangements, brought to life by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, imbue the album with a certain dreamlike quality; this would become a trademark of both the arranger and the mouthpiece. The album proved to be a modest success within the Midwest, but failed to make an impact nationally – this was to be the Rotary’s ultimate fate.

The band returned in 1968 with a pair of albums, Aladdin and Peace. The former was the group’s proper sophomore effort, and it found Riperton assuming a more prominent vocal role than the “background instrument” status she had on the debut. The latter was a Christmas release, with strong pervasive messages of love and understanding for a nation in the grips of Vietnam. The album’s cover art of a hippie Santa Claus more than makes its intentions known. Peace is notable for being involved in controversy: an anti-war cartoon in a December 1968 edition of Billboard magazine featured a graphic image of a bruised and bloodied Santa on a Vietnam battlefield. Mistaking this cartoon for the album’s cover art, Montgomery Ward cancelled all shipments of the album.

Rotary Connection would release three more albums: Songs, in 1969, a collection of drastic reworkings of other artist’s songs, including Otis Redding‘s Respect and The Band‘s The Weight and Cream‘s Sunshine Of Your Love. Dinner Music followed in 1970, in which they added elements of folk and country into the mix along with some electronic experimentation, and; Hey Love in 1971, where the band, oddly credited as the New Rotary Connection, ended its career with a jazz-oriented affair. From this particular album came the uplifting I am the Black Gold of the Sun, which was famously covered in 1997 by underground dance outfit Nuyorican Soul.

After the break-up of the band, Stepney served as a producer and arranger for other artists, most notably the soul outfit Earth, Wind, & Fire. He died in 1976 of a heart attack. Minnie Riperton enjoyed the fruits of a successful solo career until breast cancer ended her life in 1979. Sidney Barnes continues to work a singer and songwriter, and in recent years has gained a following in the U.K.. The other remaining members of the band either attempted other, lower-profile, musical endeavors or divorced themselves entirely of the business. Thanks to reissues of their catalog in the late 1990s and the appropriation of material through sampling within the hip-hop community, Rotary Connection has been formally introduced to a new generation.

The Texas International Pop Festival was a music festival held at Lewisville, Texas, on Labor Day weekend, August 30 to September 1, 1969. It occurred two weeks after Woodstock. The site for the event was an open field just south and west of the newly opened Dallas International Motor Speedway, located on the east side of Interstate Highway 35E, across from the Round Grove Road intersection.

Song Lyrics –

It’s getting near dawn
When lights close their tired eyes
Soon be with you, my love
Give you my dawn surprise
Gonna be with you, darling, soon
Gonna be with you when the stars start falling

I’ve been waiting so long
To be where I’m going
In the sunshine of your love

I’m with you, my love
I see the lights shining through on you
With you, my love
Early in the morning here we are just we two
Gonna stay with you, darling, now
Stay with you ’til my seas are dried up
Till my seas are dried up

I’ve been waiting so long
Soon gonna be where I’m going
Somewhere In the sunshine of your love

I’ve been waiting so long
To be where I’m going
Safe through the sunshine of your love

I wanna be in the sunshine
Wanna be safe in the sunshine
Won’t you let me hide somewhere in the sunshine…

Credit: https://genius.com, YouTube.com, Last.FM & Yahoo.com/images

Note: I do not own the rights to this video. I added it because Minnie Riperton is in it.

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