Funk queen, rock goddess, jazz singer, disco diva – Chaka Khan embodies and transcends these. With a voice of seductive fire and sweet smoke, Khan came to prominence with the innovative funk/rock group Rufus in the 1970s. Equally ferocious and feminine, she was Rufus’ secret weapon. At a time when audiences for rock and soul were splitting into different camps, Khan’s voice and presence represented the racial and social integration at the heart of rock & roll.
With her incredible vocal range and mastery of dynamics, Chaka Khan has recorded long-lasting, powerful music for close to five decades. After Rufus’ long run of hits, Khan broke out on her own in 1978 with Ashford & Simpson’s “I’m Every Woman,” a successful mix of rock and disco. Throughout her career, Khan mastered the rhythms of every era, from funk to rock to hip-hop; she also showcased her jazz roots on albums like Echoes of an Era (1982) and ClassiKhan (2004). Her landmark solo album, 1984’s I Feel for You, featured the creative and exciting mix of funk, synth dance rhythms, and hip-hop of the Prince-penned title track and the stunning ballad “Through the Fire.” Khan continues to be one of the most prolific and eclectic singers around, covering songbook standards and soul classics to equal acclaim, and earning the 2008 Grammy for best R&B album with Funk This, her tenth Grammy win. Khan’s most recent album, Hello Happiness, was released in 2019.
Inspired by pioneering female artists like Aretha Franklin and Joni Mitchell, Chaka Khan remains one of the mightiest and most influential voices in music. It is impossible to imagine today’s streetwise but sensual hip-hop-soul divas without Khan’s influence paving the way for other formidable women like Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, and Janelle Monáe, as well as versatile, powerhouse vocalists like Sam Smith. Khan’s work has endured for decades and continues to inspire fellow artists and fans alike.
“What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me,” What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me (1981) • “Love You All My Lifetime,” The Woman I Am (1992) • “Disrespectful” (with Mary J. Blige), Funk This (2007) • “Like Sugar,” Hello Happiness (2019) • “Nobody” (with Ariana Grande), Charlie’s Angels: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2019) • “Woman Like Me” (2022)
Influences: Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Prince
Legacies: Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, Sam Smith
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