I first saw Chaka Kahn in the Spring of 1974, live and on stage at the old Circle Star Theater in San Carlos California. My school friends and I went there to see 'Tower of Power', but it was this dynamic lead singer and her Funk Band Rufus...that stole the show!
She exploded on stage in tight fitting, pearl-white hot pants that accented her compact, curvaceous body...and free-flowing, thickly-curled burgundy-brown hair. But, it was her huge, bright smile that lit up the arena, and powerfully clear voice that sent shivers down every spine in the house...especially mine!!
Through her opening numbers 'Tell me something good' and "Once you get started', I sensed super stardom in Chaka's future...and while the old Circle Star stage has long since been torn down, Chaka Khan's star still shines in the music world.
Born Yvette Marie Stevens 56 years ago, she was raised in South Chicago and formed her first band "The Crystalettes" at age 11. In high school she toured with the Motown Great Mary Wells as part of an Afro arts theatre group. Then, while volunteering at a Black Panthers free childrens breakfast program in Chicago, a Yoruban Priest gave her a new name...Chaka Adunne Aduffe Yemaja Hadari Karifi...re-uniting her with her African tribal roots.
Soon after quitting high school in 1969, she met musicians Kevin Murphy and Andre Fischer to form 'Rufus', a 70's Funk Soul band that would rival other top-chart groups such as 'The Commodores', 'Ohio Players', and 'Earth Wind and Fire'. During this time Chaka dated and married Bass player Hassan Khan.
In 1974 Stevie Wonder helped promote and sell Rufus's first big hit 'Tell me something Good', and a second hit 'You got the Love'...featuring then unknown guitarist Ray Parker Junior. Hits like 'Sweet Thing', Once you get Started', and 'Everlasting Love' helped earn Chaka and the group 8 platinum albums and 2 Grammy awards. Her versatile style and ability to collaborate with other superstars, set her apart from other singers....and the opportunities led to her breaking off on her own.
In 1978 a new solo career launched Chaka Khan on a 30-year run of mega-hit songs including 'I'm Every Woman'(also in duet with Whitney Houston), 'I feel for you', 'Ain't Nobody', and 'Through the Fire'. During this period Chaka also collaborated on musical projects with the likes of Michael Jackson, Prince, James Brown, Ashford and Simpson, Luther Vandross, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Rick Wakeman, Steve Winwood, and Ray Charles.
She performed movie sound tracks for "Waiting to Exhale", and "Too Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar. She even helped the group 'Chicago" with a ballad and album cover, and performed the theme song for the hit kids TV show 'The Reading Room'. In the year 2000 Chaka also sang at both Republican and Democratic Conventions.
Among Her many awards include 10 Grammy and 12 Grammy nominations, 2 BET awards including a lifetime Achievement Award, The Lena Horn Lady of Soul Career Achievement Award in 1998, and 4 American Music Award nominations.
In 1982 Chaka was even nominated best Female Jazz Vocalist while performing with Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, and Lennie White, on an experiment called "Echoes of an Era." She then topped that off by nabbing an Honorary Doctorate from The Berklee College of Music.
Since 2006 Chaka has been living in London, during which time she's continued to write songs, tour, and even act...traveling back to the U.S. to play the part of Sofia in the play 'The Color Purple'. In early 2009 She announced she' would finish the year off performing with 'Lulu' and 'Anastacia' on a world tour called "Here Come the Girls".
Life doesn't seem to slow down much for Chaka Khan. Her song 'I'm EVERY Woman' fits her perfectly...as well has the title given by her peers..."The QUEEN of Funk and Soul".