by Scarlet Waters
If James Brown was the hardest working man in show-business, then it should probably be said that Chaka Khan is the hardest-working woman in show-business. Born Yvette Marie Stevens, this woman is the undisputed Queen of Funk. At 64 years old, and still fine as all out-doors, she has been churning out hits for over five decades.
She has sold an estimated 70 million records worldwide, having received four gold singles, four gold albums, and two platinum albums with the band Rufus, and three gold singles, three gold albums and one platinum album in her solo career. Her songs span genres of Funk, R&B, Soul, Disco, Pop, and Gospel. She is also a prolific jazz singer.
Songs like Tell Me Something Good, You Got The Love, Once You Get Started, Sweet Thing, and Do You Love What You Feel put Rufus on the map throughout the 70’s giving them permanent legendary status in the music industry. And did you know she played drums, bass and percussion with Rufus? Yaaaaasss.
In 1978, Warner Bros. released her solo album with the smash hit I’m Every Woman written by Ashford & Simpson, selling over 1 million copies. Whatcha Gonna Do For Me went gold in 1981, and she released her final single with Rufus Ain’t Nobody in 1983. Her remake of Prince’s I Feel For You reached #3 on Billboard’s top 100 in 1984, and earned Prince a Grammy in 1985 for Best R&B Song.
Chaka Khan has continued to perform and record music until this very day working with artists like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Babyface, Steve Winwood, Robert Palmer, Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
I have a great personal story about Chaka Khan. She has recently owned up to battling addiction and went to rehab, so I don’t think she would mind if I told this story. I was in the East Village in New York many years ago at a club, and the DJ noticed that Chaka was in the audience. He begged her to come up and sing. She did not need much cajoling at all and she immediately began to work her way towards the stage.
It was evident she was extremely inebriated. She was stumbling, almost fell down, and had to be helped onstage. She began to speak and her speech was so slurred, that everyone in the joint started looking at each other like “oh my goodness this is going to be disastrous” and that woman TORE IT UP!
She killed it. And then had to be helped back to her chair. Some people are just meant to do what they do! I wish the best of health to this phenomenal talent and beautiful woman, and hope that she hangs in there for 5 more decades to continue to bless us with her cosmic force of a talent.