Chaka Khan

  • Singer, songwriter and musician born Yvette Stevens in 1953 in Chicago Illinois.
  • Stevens developed a love of music from her grandmother, who introduced her to jazz music. In the early 60s, she listened to R&B music, and at the age of eleven, she formed a girl group called the Crystalettes. At 13, an African priest gave her a new name – Chaka Adunne Aduffe Hodarhi Karifi. As a teenager, she attended civil rights rallies and she joined the Black Panthers in 1967. Two years later, she left the Panthers and dropped out of high school, instead performing in musical groups around Chicago. She met a man named Hassan Khan, and married him in 1970 – this made her Chaka Khan.
  • A Chicago funk band was looking for a singer, and in 1972 they saw Khan performing. They asked her to join, and she became the lead singer for Rufus. Rufus soon was discovered by Ike Turner, and in 1973, they were signed to a recording contract. Khan remained with Rufus for 12 years, until they disbanded. During this time, the band had ten Top 40 hits on the Hot 100 – their highest charting single was their breakout hit Tell Me Something Good, which peaked at #3 in 1974. They also had 12 singles in the top 10 of the R&B chart, with You Got the Love, Sweet Thing, At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up), Do You Love What You Feel and Ain’t Nobody topping the chart. Tell Me Something Good and Ain’t Nobody both won Grammy awards in the R&B category.
  • In 1978, while still performing with Rufus, Khan began her solo career. Her debut album, titled Chaka, including a #1 single on the R&B chart, I’m Every Woman. She released four more solo albums while still with Rufus, topping the R&B chart again with What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me. Her fourth solo album, 1982’s Chaka Khan, won her a Grammy award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. In 1980 she had a cameo appearance in the church choir scene of the film The Blues Brothers.
  • After the breakup of Rufus, Khan was free to concentrate on her solo career. In 1984, her platinum selling album I Feel For You was released. The title track was written by Prince, and it became her biggest hit, reaching #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart. Prince won a Grammy as songwriter of the song, and Khan won another Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Another song from the album, This Is My Night, went to #1 on the Dance chart and #11 on the R&B chart.
  • She released three more studio albums between 1986 and 1992, and had three more singles in the top 10 of the R&B chart. In 1989, she was the featured vocalist (along with Ray Charles) on Quincy Jones’ single I’ll Be Good To You – the song reached #1 on the R&B chart and it won Grammy awards for Khan, Charles and Jones. In 1992, her The Woman I Am album won her her seventh Grammy award. A compilation album in 1996 was released that included several songs that were not previously released – her single Never Miss the Water topped the Dance chart.
  • In 1998, Khan signed a recording contract with Prince’s record label, and an album was released. She toured with Price as a co-headline act. She left the label in 2000, and in 2004 she released a jazz cover album. In 2007, she released a comeback album titled Funk This. Khan won two more Grammy’s with the album – Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for Disrespectful, a duo with Mary J. Blige which also topped the Dance chart.
  • Since 2010, Khan released two live albums and a studio album. Over the years, she has been dubbed “the Queen of Funk.” She was nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame three times as a solo artist and four times as a member of Rufus – I betcha she’ll be a member before too long. Here’s the video for her hit I Feel For You. The iconic rapping of “Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan” by Melle Mel at the beginning was originally a mistake made by the producer, who later decided to keep it in the song – it would become the first song to be a crossover hit that featured a rapper. The harmonica work on the song is by Stevie Wonder. This song is VERY 80s Prince-like!

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