Queen of Funk, Chaka Khan celebrate her 59th birthday today on March 23rd. The legendary singer, born Yvette Marie Stevens is known for her undeniable vocals and soul capturing music. She is a 10-time Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter who gained fame in the 1970s as the frontwoman and focal point of the funk band Rufus. Her signature hits, both with Rufus and as a solo performer, include “Tell Me Something Good”, “Sweet Thing” which she wrote for her then husband Richard Holland, “Ain’t Nobody”, “I’m Every Woman”, “I Feel For You” and “Through The Fire”.
Born and raised in Chicago’s rough South Side housing projects, Khan was the eldest of five children to Charles Stevens and Sandra Coleman. Khan attributed her love of music to her grandmother, who introduced her to jazz music as a child. Khan became a fan of R&B music as a preteen and at eleven formed her firstall-female girl group the Crystalettes, which also included her sister Taka. In the late 1960s, Khan and her sister formed the vocal group Shades of Black and joined the Black Panther Party after befriending fellow member, activist and Chicago native Fred Hampton in 1967. While a member, she was given a name change to Chaka Adunne Aduffe Hodarhi Karifi by an African shaman. In 1969, she left the Panthers, dropped out of high school. She began to perform in small groups around the Chicago area, first performing with the group Lyfe, which included her then boyfriend Hassan Khan, whom she’d later marry. Khan was asked to replace the late Baby Huey of Baby Huey & the Babysitters after Huey’s untimely death, in 1970.
In 1978, Warner Bros. Records released Khan’s solo debut album, which featured the crossover disco hit, “I’m Every Woman”, written for her by songwriters Ashford & Simpson. The single helped the album go platinum, selling over a million copies. In 1979, Khan reunited with Rufus to collaborate on the Jones-produced Masterjam, which featured their hit, “Do You Love What You Feel”, which Khan sang with Tony Maiden. In 1980, Khan released her second solo album, Naughty, which featured Khan on the cover with her six-year-old daughter Milini. In 1982, Khan issued two more solo albums, the jazz-oriented Echoes of an Era and a more funk/pop-oriented self-titled album. Stompin’ at the Savoy – Live, which featured the studio single, “Ain’t Nobody”, which became the group’s final charting success reaching number twenty-two on the Billboard Hot 100 and number-one on the Hot R&B chart, while also reaching the top ten in the United Kingdom.
In 1984, Khan released her sixth studio album, I Feel for You. The title track was the first single released. Originally written and recorded by Prince. Khan’s version featured a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder and was closely associated with the singer as in the song’s introductory rap Grandmaster Melle Mel states “Chaka Khan” repeatedly. This version of the song became a million-selling smash in the U.S. and UK. I Feel For You topped not only the U.S. R&B and dance charts, but achieved great success on U.S. pop charts, and reached number one in the United Kingdom as well. The song reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1984, and remained on that chart for 26 weeks, well into 1985. It was listed as Billboard’s number 5 song for the year 1985, and netted Prince the 1985 Grammy Award for Best R&B Song.
In 1998, Khan signed a contract with Prince’s NPG Records label and issued Come 2 My House, followed by the single “Don’t Talk 2 Strangers”, a cover of a 1996 Prince song.
On May 19, 2011, Khan was given the 2,440th Hollywood Walk of Fame star plaque on a section of Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. Her family was present when the singer accepted the honor, as was Stevie Wonder, who had written her breakout hit “Tell Me Something Good”.
On September 27, 2011, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame committee announced that Khan and her former band Rufus were jointly nominated for induction to the hall. It was the collective’s first nomination 13 years after they were first eligible. The group were nominated partly due to Khan’s own storied reputation, including her own solo career in conjunction with her years with Rufus.
Chaka Khan has won 10 Grammy Awards, including two as a member of Rufus. She has received 22 Grammy Award nominations.
Happy Birthday Chaka!
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