Chaka Khan Biography

Review The Artist (14)

Chaka Khan-photo
From the moment Chaka came on the music scene, as a member of the sophistofunk band Rufus, one of the first multi-racial pop/rock/soul bands, it was apparent that someone of vocal importance was emerging. Chaka was a new breed of singer -- self-taught and she bluntly ignored tradition. When it wasn't fashionable for singers to record their own background vocals, Khan made her own fashion statement and arranged her own -- laying down one track while assembling another -- competing with herself endlessly until all of her trademark vocals were seamlessly matched.

Chaka's unprecedented contralto and incalculable vocal range, originality and delivery (not to mention her sublime physical presence!), set new standards in the music world and in recent years, Chaka's style has been emulated by a legion of female singers. Although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery -- Chaka Khan is clearly in a class by herself. Her vocal style, identifiable in a flash, is a major force of nature in music, a sound like no other.

When Chaka first emerged, she was a young girl from Chicago with relentless enthusiasm and a God-given talent for singing. Born Yvette Marie Stevens on March 23, 1953, in the Chicago suburb of Great Lakes, she formed her first group, The Crystalettes, at the age of 11 and began her professional career at 15. While still in high school, she joined the Afro-Arts Theater, a group which toured with Motown great Mary Wells, and a few years later, while working on the Black Panthers' breakfast program, she adopted the name Chaka, which is African for "Woman of Fire". Her full African name is Chaka Adunne Aduffe Yemoja Hodarhi Karifi. She later acquired Khan from a brief marriage in her late teens.

After quitting school in 1969, Khan joined the group Lyfe, soon exiting to join another dance band, The Babysitters. She worked as a file clerk by day and sang in local clubs at night. At 18, she made her move to Los Angeles and hooked up with a group of fledgling musicians called Rufus. Two years later, in 1973, their self-titled debut album "Rufus" was released. Their second album "Rags To Rufus" (1974) contained the Grammy award winning classic "Tell Me Something Good", and all of a sudden they found themselves being the name on everybody's lips. Chaka had set out to become a singer and instantly became a star.

In the years to come, Rufus and Chaka Khan would prove to be one of the most influential pop, rock, funk and R&B groups around and the central reason was Khan's amazing vocal talents and electrifying stage presence. With a string of classic gold and platinum albums like "Rufusized", "Ask Rufus", "Street Player" and "Masterjam", the band endured as one of music's most popular and successful groups of the seventies. In 1978, Chaka made her solo album debut and had an instant hit with "I'm Every Woman", penned by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. She was now a star in her own right and enjoyed great success with her following albums "Naughty" (1980), "What Cha' Gonna Do For Me" (1981) and "Chaka Khan" (1982).

Chaka would continue to record three more albums with Rufus but it was inevitable that she eventually would step out her own. In 1983, she left the group for good. And after Chaka -- there was no more Rufus. They said "thank you and goodbye" with one of the best live albums ever released -- "Live: Stompin At The Savoy". The album produced the immortal Grammy winning single "Ain't Nobody", which turned out to be one of their biggest hits and a song that, maybe more than any other, defines the inimitable vocal style of Chaka Khan.

Chaka Khan is among the few singers who have left a group and continued to reap ever greater success. Album after album has produced Top Ten hits including "I'm Every Woman", "This Is My Night", "Got To Be There", "What Cha' Gonna Do For Me", and her biggest hit "I Feel For You" -- the rap-tinged Prince classic which scored on the charts in 1984 and earned her a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Female Vocalist.

Chaka has always delighted in working with an outstanding array of talented contemporaries across genres. She has contributed to more than 70 different albums, working with artists as diverse as David Bowie, Quincy Jones, The Manhattan Transfer, Lenny White, Joe Henderson, Eric Clapton, Gladys Knight, Stephen Bishop, Guru, Joni Mitchell and Brandy. On her own recordings, she's hosted guests like The Artist, Miles Davis, Bobby McFerrin, Larry Graham, Queen Latifah, Dizzy Gillespie, Me'Shell Ndegé–›cello and the guys of Toto.

Always searching for ways to execute her originality and inspiration, Chaka recorded a jazz album, "Echoes Of An Era" (1982). This album ran the gamut of musical moods that served notice of a creative giant step for the richly talented and dynamic singer.

Heavily involved in charitable work, Chaka Khan has established The Chaka Khan Foundation to assist drug and alcohol treatment and/or services for women and their children, to support battered women and those with HIV. Says Chaka: "It's time to build up and time to give back." Her life harmonious and focused, Khan is just as likely to be at a 1PM board meeting about her foundation and starring at a sold out 10PM concert.

Chaka's most recent album "Come 2 My House" (1998) is a classic blend of her talent and demonstrates even further growth of her vocal abilities and creative prowess. She is what she is and she'll only do what she likes. Many people like to place her in the soul and R&B category, some call her a jazz singer -- some might even call her a disco diva. Nothing could be more wrong. On her albums you will find everything from bittersweet soul ballads, blistering pop covers, funk-drenched rap, smoky jazz renderings and all the way through the jungle to energetic rock n' roll, spiritual gospel, powerful disco, syncopated funk, steamy R&B and, yes -- back again. "Come 2 My House" was co-produced by The Artist and Chaka and proves, yet again, ample evidence that Chaka Khan will always transcend any categorization.

Like any other singer, Chaka Khan has been given several more or less fitting nicknames. But no, she's not the Queen of Soul, not the Godmother of R&B nor the Grand Lady of Funk. Yes, she may me divalicious -- but she's not a soul or disco diva. Chaka has perfected a style, a sizzling stage presence and intimacy with her adoring fans that keeps them stuck like glue. The New York Times once wrote: "Chaka Khan's singing is extraordinary. She can coo with a girlish sweetness, cut to the bone with a nasal Dinah Washington, turn, whisper a breathy invitation or proclaim high-flying jubilation." In New York Newsday, the words were equally flattering: "Her huge voice refuses to acknowledge any state other than sheer ecstasy."

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Unlimited vocal range...Chaka Khan | Reviewer: Bruce Brown | 2/3/14

Chaka Khan has one of the most if not the rarest voice in the music biz. Her voice is so powerful and second to no one else. She can soprano, alto and even go as low as she wants. Her range is simply incalculable. Her range cannot be measured. Call it whatever you want as far as her yelling, screaming or what have you. Her voice just has a lot of volume but then she can bring it down so soft or even in the middle range without ever using falsetto which sets her apart from all the rest. All the others have to falsetto where Chaka doesn't have to because she can't. She has stated over and over that she can't falsetto. That is unheard of and very very rare. I have seen and heard Chaka sing soprano notes like I drink water and where some other sopranos struggle or cannot simply hit. Her voice is one in a billion. And you catch her when that voice is well rested and in very good standing, you will be in for the concert of your life. She can just go on and on and on. There will never be another voice like a Chaka Khan voice. The Queen Patti LaBelle even said this herself.

chaka khan is all that!!! | Reviewer: -michael Freeman Freeman | 6/4/13

Have been a fan since I was in my Mona wo,mob!! Then edtet I was born and I finally got to see her I fell in love instantly, and been in love with this woman every since!! Love Dhaka!!!

Love To Chaka | Reviewer: Kathy Prince | 5/3/13

I have loved your music most of my life. From Rufus to hollywood, papillon, stay to angel I have loved it all. The first time I heard "Angel" I was riding with my sister and brother in law to Chicago and my sister asked if I had heard your new CD, I said no and she put in on. Well, I was so blown away and speechless all I could do was cry! I totally relate to that song. Absolutely adore you and loved seeing you in concert was truly a life changing experience. You are a beautiful inside and out. Keep showering us with your God given gift and we will forever love you.

question are you a healer | Reviewer: moonah | 10/7/10

chaka kahn, you have amost dynamic voice,i have been listening to your music since tell me something good.and sweetthing you rock.i also like angel and you belong to me..nice i heard the latest is something about you being psychic and a healer. and hooking up with sylvia brown. is this true? i believe your voice is an instrument and gift. and if it is not true. i believe that your voice could helpful to help people heal.i believe that you
can reach chackras to help heal people. or something on that level. love ya chacka moona

The healing balm of chaka Khan | Reviewer: TAMMIE DUNBAR | 12/4/09

In 1991 on a wendsday the day before valeltine my beloved sister the baby my mother came home with as a surprise to me and my little brother in 1966,Nov 28. Was taken away from us by violence from a abusive man. Losing her has been the hardest pain I have had to endure. Chaka' sanging helped me to come through that fire. I am eternally grateful to GOD Almighty for her gift to me. I am a fan from 1974 when I frist heard her instrument ring out . starting with the song "In Love We Grow" The Rufusied Album. We love you CHAKA, May GOD Bless and keep you on earth as it is in heaven. "Sista Fan"

honesty | Reviewer: Jodie | 1/31/09

well i love your music chaka, i read your biography but i really need to know about your present life, in my opinion don't mean to be harsh but your life is kinda boring, it would help to learn, who influenced you?

Phenomenal | Reviewer: Judith | 1/29/09

I have been listening to Chaka Khan since 1974. She is absolutely amazing. Her voice transcends thru every octave. Years ago I saw the classic movie " To Sir With Love". Sidney Poitier starred. And Lulu a pop singer also was in the movie and sang the song. I loved that song. As the years passed and Chaka came on the scene...To Sir With Love was a song that I had always wanted her to sing. She sings it on her Classikhan cd. I was blown away. The woman is absolutely phenomenal. I know she can sing anything. If you don't know her music...make yourself happy and buy all that she has recorded. I anticipate what is next. Come on Chaka and bust out with something for 2009. Pen the cd " So Fine" for 2009.

A Fan for Life.
Thanx for creating the Chaka Khan Foundation...


fun loveing women of god | Reviewer: britney | 11/26/08

I would like to say that you chaka khan is so beatiful. I love the way you sing . your singing warms my heart and touch's my heart too. you are a graceful women. your amazing you do'nt have to
show your body to noone. they will know your a gorgous women. you look graceful. keep yourself coved and they will see that your a physically attracked women even when you are wearing normal neat clohtes on. God Bless you.

WOW you're AMAZING!!!!! | Reviewer: Candace | 11/14/07

What can I say? This song 'Angel' is so real. I felt like my picture should have been next to the title of that song. I can so so relate to that song. I just keep playing it over and over again and I'm blessed that I was able to hear it through your website because the album hadn't come out yet. Anyway, I'm going into the stores this week to purchase the CD. Chaka...You're a bad WOMAN!. Don't stop. You're one of the real artist that we have left.

Chaka Khan "Funk This" | Reviewer: Dorya | 10/26/07

I recently purchased the above new CD and I need the lyrics to "Angel" by the above-named Artist.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Delighted to have this chance | Reviewer: CMe | 8/12/07

I used to sing in small time small town singing group. A lot of my friends at the time had dreams of becoming the next singing sensation. I saw Chaka Khan w/Rufus, once live after purchasing a Rufus album.......I put the thought of singing to rest. If I could not come close to what she could do with her voice, why bother? It was a needless thought to ponder, because it's what I would have wanted to be able to do. So, having said that, I say she is nothing more than a phenomenal talent, and I listen to even her old stuff, still, after all these years, as have my kids, and they range in age from 34-24. Please see my artowrk of Chaka Khan at And, thanks.

vocals at its finest | Reviewer: lore c. jones | 7/18/07

as said many times before, chakas vocals trancends anything ive ever heard on any song at any given time,, she gives a vivid veiw of what love is that is captured by the ear, and therefore seen through the minds eye, she takes you places, even when your standing still.
so in closing I will just say,
when you say chaka khan, you,ve said it all.
fan from day one.
Loren C. Jones

The greatest of our time and yours | Reviewer: Gilda Walker | 6/7/07

I first heard Chaka Khan when I was 8 years old, I am 44 now and I will always love her music. I've made sure my children, husband and anyone who is around me understands that she is a forgotten legend and underrated. Ms.Khan shouldbe honored more by her own people for her contributions and the influence she has made with modern music. Yes other artists are more popular but they are not as unique as she is or talented. Oh and where is her Hollywood Star?

One of you loyal fans.


TRuth | Reviewer: Gabriel's trumpet | 3/14/07

We are expose to SOOOOO many singers who's voice is nothing compared to great singers like chaka khan. We give all the attention to those who just have a nice beat!!!!! But when you take that away what do you have!!!!

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