From the moment she burst onto the music scene as the lead singer of the multi-racial band Rufus in the early ’70s, CHAKA KHAN’s all-powerful voice, show-stopping stage presence, and style created a standard that set her apart from any other singer before or after her. Nearly 40 years later, Chaka is a legendary music icon whose influence has impacted whole generations of hit-making contemporary artists.
Early on, she caught the attention of another musical icon, Stevie Wonder, who penned her first hit with Rufus, the Grammy-winning “Tell Me Something Good.” From that point on, the group dominated the airwaves with hit after hit, such as “Once You Get Started,” “Sweet Thing,” “Everlasting Love,” “Do You Love What You Feel?,” and “Ain’t Nobody.” With Chaka as the group’s dynamic center, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan became one of the most popular acts around, selling out shows throughout the country.
It was inevitable that a singer of Chaka’s caliber would eventually strike out on her own. When that time came, all doubts about Chaka being able to succeed as a solo artist were quickly dismissed with the release of the smash hit “I’m Every Woman” written by Ashford & Simpson. Her catalog grew even more impressive with hits such as “Clouds,” “Papillon,” “What’Cha Gonna Do For Me?,” and the song that made Chaka Khan a household name the world over, “I Feel For You,” written by long-time admirer and friend, Prince.
Though many know Chaka Khan as one of the best soul music singers/songwriters around, she has the rare ability to delve into any genre of music from funk, R&B, pop, rock, jazz, gospel, hip-hop, and classical and be authentic in her delivery. The diverse and immense list of artists with whom she has collaborated is a testament to her musical versatility, from Prince and Stevie Wonder to Steve Winwood, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and countless others. In 1992, Chaka took on a more proactive role as Executive Producer for The Woman I Am, adding a new dimension to her illustrious career and another Grammy for her efforts. Chaka’s emotive vocals can be heard on a number of soundtracks, including Clockers; Set It Off; To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar; Miami Vice; White Knights; Moscow on the Hudson; Disappearing Acts; Waiting to Exhale; 27 Dresses; Get Rich Or Die Tryin’; Bridget Jones’ Diary; Roll Bounce; 40-Year-Old Virgin; The Cookout; Hollywood Homicide; Deliver Us from Eva; Love & Basketball; Standing in the Shadows of Motown; and the recent Tyler Perry hits Madea’s Family Reunion and Meet The Browns.
Chaka Khan is not slowing down. Her album Funk This won a Grammy for Best R&B Album, and her duet “Disrespectful,” featuring Mary J. Blige, won a Grammy for Best R&B performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. She had a glorious Broadway debut as Sofia in The Color Purple and had back-to-back Top-10 Billboard hits with the singles “Angel” and “One For All Time” from Funk This.
Renowned for the timeless quality of her music, Chaka Khan has earned ten Grammys and numerous other awards.
In 1999, Chaka Khan established the Chaka Khan Foundation; its most recent initiative involves a partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School district mentoring middle school students who are college-bound. Of her work with the Foundation and her other philanthropic endeavors Chaka simply says, “It’s time to build up and time to give back.” Her commitment to at-risk women and children is seen through her countless hours of dedication to the Chaka Khan Foundation.
Like any superstar of her magnitude, Chaka has had her share of ups and downs. Her inspiring autobiography, Through The Fire, was acclaimed for its soul-baring candor and honesty. While many celebrities would avoid putting some of their most painful experiences out there for the whole world to see, Chaka bravely revealed her demons as a means to help others.
Having already achieved so much during her career, Chaka Khan continues to challenge herself musically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. She is an enduring talent who continues to amaze the world with her genius. Lucky for us, she’s nowhere near finished providing us with her own special brand of music and impacting everyone within earshot.