She’s the quintessential Queen of Funk and Soul and is the powerful voice behind some of music’s biggest anthems, and after 40 years, the fabulous Chaka Khan is still at the top of her game!
Having just celebrated her 60th birthday and 40th career anniversary with a star-studded bash in Hollywood this week, Chaka is just beginning to scratch the surface of year-long anniversary celebrations.
To mark her 40th anniversary in music, Chaka has released a commemorative album The iKhan Project: Commemorative Limited Edition, plus will head out on a world tour in celebration.
In honor of her milestone year and four decades of music, we’re paying tribute to the diva herself for her birthday tomorrow (March 23rd), so we dug up some little known facts about Chaka Khan you may not have known before to mark the occasion!
She’s a “Woman of Fire”
Born Yvette Marie Stevens, she later adopted her African name ‘Chaka’ meaning “Woman of Fire” when she joined the Black Panthers party. Her last name Khan came from a brief marriage in her teens to Hassan Khan, who she performed with in the early group ‘Lyfe’ around Chicago.
Started her first band at 11
Chaka started her singing career at the tender age of 11 after starting an all-girl group the Crystalettes with a group of friends and her sister Taka.
“I Feel For You” was written by Prince
One of Chaka’s signature hits “I Feel For You” was actually written by Prince and first included on his 1979 self-titled album. Khan’s version of the song became the most well-known and helped relaunch her solo career after its release in 1984. The song even featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica, and later won Prince, as songwriter, the Grammy for Best R&B Song.
Watch Prince, Stevie and Chaka perform “I Feel For You” together here.
She had a Blues Brothers cameo
Remember the hit 1980s musical comedy Blues Brothers starring Dan Aykryod and John Belushi? Chaka Khan (along with dozens more R&B artists) made a brief appearance in the film as the choir soloist in Reverend Cleophus James’ church choir, who was portrayed none other than the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.
Whitney Houston sang backing vocals on “I’m Every Woman”
The ultimate girls’ anthem, Chaka’s first solo hit “I’m Every Woman” also featured the backing vocals of a 14-year-old Whitney Houston and mother Cissy. Houston famously re-released the anthem years later in 1993 with her version becoming a bigger hit than the original.
Houston also paid homage to Chaka in her version by saying Chaka’s name at the end of the song.