Chaka Khan: Singer, Songwriter, Actor, Activist

Chaka Khan was born Yvette Marie Stevens on March 23, 1953 into an artistic, bohemian household in Chicago, Illinois.  Bohemian, is not a word used much anymore but it by definition means "socially unconventional, but involved in the arts, or in an artistic way.  Chaka/Yvette was the eldest of five kids born to Charles Stevens and Sandra Coleman, Yvette described her father as a beatnik and her mother as "able to do anything." She was raised in the Hyde Park area, which has been called "an island in the middle of the madness" of Chicago's rough South Side housing projects.  Her sister Yvonne later became a successful musician in her own right under the name Taka Boom. Her only brother, Mark, who formed the funk group Aurra, also became a successful musician. She has two other sisters, Zaheva Stevens and Tammy McCrary.

Yvette was raised as a Catholic, and attributed her love of music to her grandmother, who introduced her to jazz as a child. Yvette soon became a fan of rhythm and blues music as a preteen and at eleven formed a girl group, the Crystalettes, that included her sister Taka.  In the late 1960s, Yvette attended several civil rights rallies with her father's second wife, Connie, who was a strong supporter of the movement and joined the Black Panther Party after befriending fellow member, activist and Chicago native Fred Hampton in 1967.


Though many think that she was given the name Chaka while in the Panthers, she has made it clear that her name Chaka Adunne Aduffe Hodarhi Karifi was given to her at age 13 by a Yoruba Baba. In 1969, she left the Panthers and dropped out of high school, having attended Calumet High School and Kenwood High School (now Kenwood Academy).  Chaka began to perform in small groups around the Chicago area, first performing with Cash McCall's group Lyfe, which included her then-boyfriend Hassan Khan. Chaka and Hassan married in 1970.


Chaka was asked to replace Baby Huey of Baby Huey & the Babysitters A great singer and tight band


(CLIP)  Baby Huey Hard Times


After Huey's death in 1970. The group disbanded a year later.     While performing in local bands in 1972, Chaka Khan was spotted by two members of a new group called Rufus and soon won her position in the group (replacing rock n roll singer Paulette McWilliams). The group caught the attention of musician Ike Turner who flew them out to Los Angeles to record at his studio Bolic Sound in Inglewood, California. Ike wanted Khan to become an Ikette; she declined stating she was "really happy with Rufus. But Ike's attention was certainly a boost."



Early on, Chaka caught the attention of music icon Stevie Wonder, who penned her first smash hit with Rufus, “Tell Me Something Good.”




The single from the group’s 1974 platinum-selling album, Rags to Rufus, earned Chaka her first GRAMMY® Award. With Chaka as the group’s dynamic center, Rufus became one of the most popular acts around selling out shows throughout the country and dominating the airwaves with hit after hit with songs such as “You Got the Love,” which Chaka co-wrote




“Once You Get Started,” 




“Sweet Thing,”




“Everlasting Love,”




“Do You Love What You Feel?”





The biggie “Ain’t Nobody” Chaka’s second GRAMMY Award-winning song with Rufus. Is up...   Rufus and Chaka Khan racked up five RIAA certified gold and platinum albums during their time together.   Rufus keyboardist David "Hawk" Wolinski wrote the song around a repeating synthesizer loop backed by a Linn LM-1 drum computer; however, John J. R. Robinson, the band's drummer, played real drums for the recording session. The band did a democratic vote and they decided to include the song in their album repertoire. Once the song was recorded, Warner executives wanted to issue another song as the album's first single. AND  Wolinski threatened to give the song to American singer Michael Jackson and American producer Quincy Jones for Jackson's album Thriller, if the song was not the lead-off single. The label relented and "Ain't Nobody" was issued and hit number one on the R&B chart for the week ending October 15, 1983.  It was also the song included on the soundtrack album to the 1984 film Breakin'.


The song is performed in the key of E♭ minor with a tempo of 104 beats per minute in common time. Khan's vocals span from G♭3 to E♭5 in the song.




This is the Old School Rewind Podcast this week featuring Chaka Khan..   so we just played Ain't Nobody,  It was inevitable that a singer with Chaka’s star power would eventually venture out on her own. In 1978, Chaka blazed onto the music scene as a solo artist with the release of the smash hit “I’m Every Woman” written by Ashford & Simpson.





Thats Chaka Khan with her first solo hit "I'm every woman."  This is Aaron Goodwin and the Old School Rewind Podcast. From the 35 acres and a microphone farm we tribute the old school..


This week it's Chaka Khan and she has now Paired with the late producer extraordinaire, Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler), her catalog grew even more impressive with hits such as “Clouds,” “Papillon,” and “What ‘Cha Gonna Do For Me?” It was during this time that Chaka began pursuing her love of jazz. She and Arif brilliantly re-worked the classic song “Night in Tunisia” with the song’s originator, Dizzy Gillespie, on trumpet. Chaka also recorded an album of jazz standards titled Echoes of an Era, which featured such luminaries as Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White. Her crowning achievement in jazz was the GRAMMY® Award-winning tune, “Be Bop Medley.” The song’s album, titled Chaka Khan, also won a GRAMMY® for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.



However, anyone else would be winded..  not Chaka as the biggest and best was yet to come. And , the song that made Chaka Khan a household name and propelled her to superstardom the world over was “I Feel For You,” written and first performed by Prince.


(Clip) Prince I FEEL FOR YOU


This chart-topping, GRAMMY® Award-winning song also made music history. Released in 1984, it was the first R&B song to feature a rap, and rapper, which was the best to ever touch a mic.  Grandmaster Melle Mel.    Khan's version featured a supporting cast including guitar, drum programming, bass guitar, keyboards and arrangement by Reggie Griffin; bass synthesizer and programming by The System's David Frank using an Oberheim DSX sequencer, which was connected to his Minimoog via CV and gate; and chromatic harmonica playing by Stevie Wonder.  The song also uses vocal samples from Wonder's song "Fingertips" (1963). The repetition of Khan's name by Melle Mel at the beginning of the song was a mistake made by producer Arif Mardin, who then decided to keep it.[7]


This version of the song sold more than one million copies in the US and UK, and it helped to relaunch Khan's career. The song hit No. 1 on the Cash Box singles chart and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from the weeks of November 24, 1984 to December 8, 1984.[8] The song remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for 26 weeks and became one of Billboard's five biggest pop songs of the year for 1985. The single reached No. 1 on both the US dance[9] and R&B charts in late 1984, remaining atop both for three weeks each.[10] In addition, the song also reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart.[11] While touring with Prince in 1998 in support of her collaborative album, Come 2 My House, Khan and Prince performed "I Feel for You" as a duet.


Let's jam Chaka  and her biggest with Melle Mel


(SONG) Chaka khan I FEEL FOR YOU



This is the Old School Rewind Podcast. Aaron in your ears with the candy from the early 80's that was oh so sweet.   Old school dance r and b..    We're up to another marvel from David Foster as we feature the single "Through the Fire" is a song recorded by this weeks feature artist.   Yvette Marie Stevens, or  Chaka Khan through the fire is  from her sixth studio album, I Feel for You (1984). The David Foster-produced track was the third single from the album and reached number 60 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 15 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts It was one of the few Khan hits to cross to the Adult Contemporary chart. The music video was filmed at Los Angeles' Union Station.  Now in top demand, Chaka lent her voice and producer skills to two of the biggest hits of 1986, Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” (clip) and Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.”(clip) Both were GRAMMY®-winning songs.


David Foster revealed in his 2011 PBS concert The Hit Man Returns if you heavens seen that. You need to. 5 snaps a stars whatever tomatoes . A killer dvd    David foster super producer says  that "this was the only melody that he ever wrote with someone in mind and that the working title of the piece was actually called "Chaka" because he was very confident that Chaka Khan would perform the song. 


The song was sampled by Kanye West on "Through the Wire", the breakout single from his 2004 debut album, The College Dropout.


(CLIP) Kanye Through the wire


The Chaka khan podcast. Old school rewind with Aaron e Goodwin.  Now in top demand, Chaka lent her voice and producer skills to two of the biggest hits of 1986,




The Old School Rewind Podcast comes to a close with Chaka mentions past 1986ish which is our primary focus on the rewind


In 1995, she made her musical theater debut on London’s West End, where she starred in Mama I Want to Sing. In 2002 she traveled to Las Vegas, where she starred in Signed, Sealed Delivered, a critically-acclaimed musical based on the music of Stevie Wonder. Her Broadway debut came in 2008 when she took over the role of Sofia in Oprah Winfrey’s musical The Color Purple.


Chaka’s emotive vocals can also 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 and Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, as well as Tyler Perry hits Madea’s Family Reunion and Meet The Browns.


From the Chaka khan website,,  During her career, she has collaborated with a long list of artists in diverse genres. Collaborators have included Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Steve Winwood, Mary J. Blige, George Benson, Larry Graham, the London Symphony Orchestra and countless others. Chaka has received a steady stream of accolades for both her artistry and philanthropy. In June 2012, she was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, joining previously inducted music greats such as Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Stevie Wonder, Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, George Harrison, B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Donna Summer and Kathleen Battle. In 2011, she was honored for her legendary career with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. During the same year, Chaka was honored with the United Negro College Fund’s An Evening of Stars Tribute. The program, which was televised on cable networks and broadcast stations in more than 40 cities nationwide, featured tribute performances by Stevie Wonder, Fantasia, Ledisi, El Debarge, Faith Evans, Angie Stone, Ginuwine, Chaka’s brother, Mark Stevens, and her daughter, Indira Khan, among others. In recent years, Chaka also received the Soul Train Legend Award (2009), the BET Lifetime Achievement Award (2006), the GRAMMY® Honors Award from the NARAS Chicago Chapter (2006) and the World Music Award Lifetime Achievement Award (2003). In 2004, Chaka received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music. Chaka’s autobiography, Through the Fire, was published by Rodale Books in 2003 and is currently being adapted into a screenplay.


Despite her busy schedule, Chaka has always made time to support and uplift her community. She has a deep commitment to women and children at risk, which led her to establish the Chaka Khan Foundation in 1999. Initially, the foundation focused primarily on public awareness campaigns around the diagnosis, intervention, and available family resources and the search for a cure for autism. Her efforts were particularly aimed at communities of color and other underserved communities, where awareness about this disorder is low. Her work in this area was inspired by her nephew who has autism and who Chaka describes as “gifted and beautiful and so full of life.” She later expanded the mission of the foundation to focus more broadly on women and children at risk. In July 2012, Chaka received the McDonald Corporation’s 365Black Award, honoring her for her leadership of the Chaka Khan Foundation.


Chaka also is an entrepreneur. In 2004, her line of gourmet chocolates, Chakalates, was sold in 20 Neiman Marcus stores around the country. Plans are underway to re-launch her signature brand of chocolates nationally and internationally. She currently is introducing Khana Sutra, a fragrance line for men, women and the home. The line also includes candles, and room and linen sprays. With a new svelte look, a new album, and a great enthusiasm for her new and expanding activities in music, philanthropy and entrepreneurial ventures, the 10-time GRAMMY® Award-winner is looking forward to a celebration of a lifetime.    From the about button on Chakas website.. Chaka Khan is one of the world’s most gifted and celebrated musicians, with a rich musical legacy. The 10-time GRAMMY® Award-winner is  A songwriter, actor, author, philanthropist, entrepreneur and activist, Chaka Khan has influenced generations of recording artists. She has the rare ability to sing in seven music genres, including R&B, pop, rock, gospel, country, world music and classical. Affectionately known around the world as Chaka, she is revered by millions of fans as well as her peers for her timeless, classic and unmatched signature music style and ability. The late, great Miles Davis often said, “She [Chaka] sings like my horn.” And the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin says, “[Chaka] is a one- of- a -kind, premier vocalist.”


Throughout her legendary career, Chaka has released 22 albums and racked up ten #1 Billboard magazine charted songs, seven RIAA certified gold singles and ten RIAA certified gold and platinum albums. Chaka’s recorded music has produced over 2,000 catalog song placements. “I am honored and blessed to celebrate 40 years in music and entertainment,” says Chaka. “I am so humbled by the love, support and gracious spirit of my fans worldwide and the continuous support my peers have shown over the years. Throughout my 40-year career, I have been through the fire a few times over and I’m still here as a living testament to God’s love and grace. Next year, I will be celebrating 40 years in the business and 60 years on earth, which equals one hundred percent Chaka.”


I'll see you next week from the 35 acres and a microphone podcast farm...   


(SONG) Chaka khan   love of a lifetime