Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
Rufus and Chaka Khan represented not only the freedom and raw sexuality of pure funk,
but also the racial and social integration at the heart of rock & roll.
In the ’70s, as the rise of disco exacerbated racially charged divisions between rock & roll and dance music, a band from Chicago brought on the funk with a force, and grace, that defied all boundaries.
First formed by black and white members of the ’60s rock band, the American Breed, Rufus acquired a secret weapon in Chaka Khan, whose voice of liquid fire and sweet incense carried a carnality as ferocious as it was distinctly feminine. Stevie Wonder, an early fan, crafted the breakthrough hit “Tell Me Something Good,” which Rufus and Khan made an unabashed simulation of sex without uttering a single naughty word.
Subsequent hits such as “Sweet Thing,” “Once You Get Started” and “At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up)” reinforced the muscular, fluid soulfulness the group retained through lineup changes, and the live album Stompin’ At The Savoy featuring the studio single “Ain’t Nobody,” a percolating instant classic captured its effortless, joyful virtuosity.
Khan, in her work with the band and later as a solo artist, remains one of the mightiest and most influential voices around, having inspired artists from Prince to Mary J. Blige. Already widely acknowledged as the queen of funk, Khan is also the godmother of hip-hop soul, and as such deserves her place alongside Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner as the Hall of Fame continues to expand its reach and scope.
“Tell Me Something Good,” Rags To Rufus (1974) • “Sweet Thing,” Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan (1975) • Ask Rufus (1977) • “Ain’t Nobody,” Stompin’ At The Savoy – Live (1983)