Induct These Women SeriesMusic

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Induct These Women: Chaka Khan

Grammy Award-winning singer Chaka Khan has been called “the most influential female vocalist in R&B since Aretha Franklin,” and she has widely been touted as the “Queen of Soul.”

Chaka Khan, born Yvette Marie Stevens on March 23, 1953, in Great Lakes, Illinois, is well-known for her powerful voice, her statement big, bold curly hair and her charismatic, unique stage presence. As a child prodigy, she formed her first group, the Crystalettes, with her sister Yvonne when she was only 11 years old. She then went on effortlessly to emulate some of her early female idols in the music scene, including Gladys Knight and Billie Holiday. Khan and her sister quickly became involved in the Afro-Arts Theater. The young phenomenons then started another musical group known as the Shades of Black.
The legendary singer achieved great success as part of the soul-funk band Rufus, including the hit penned by Stevie Wonder: “Tell Me Something Good.” Other epic songs that she is well-known for include “Sweet Thing” and “Hollywood.” She embarked on a solo career in the late ’70s and had huge success on the music charts with “I’m Every Woman,” “I Feel for You,” “This Is My Night,” and “Through the Fire.” Khan is a songwriter, political activist, philanthropist, author, actor and entrepreneur. Throughout her legendary career, Chaka has released an impressive 22 albums.

Khan has won many Grammy’s and since the late 1970’s has established herself as a dynamic solo artist in many different fields. However, the song that made Chaka Khan a household name and propelled her to superstardom the world over was “I Feel For You.” Her head-turning artistic production caught the ear of Prince and began an epic collaboration. Chaka became the music industry’s sweetheart, as so many famous and talented artists sought to collaborate with her, including the likes of Quincy Jones, Prince, Steve Winwood, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, George Benson, The London Symphony Orchestra, Larry Graham and countless others.

To top it off, not only is she a timeless vocalist, song composer, performer, but additionally, in 1995, she went on to make her musical theater debut in London, where she starred in “Mama I Want to Sing.” This proved to be just the start for this multi-talented woman to let her infinite light shine. In 2002 Khan starred in a Las Vegas production of “Signed, Sealed Delivered”, which was a brilliant, critically-acclaimed musical based on the music of Stevie Wonder. Not long thereafter, in 2008, she made her Broadway debut when she took over the role of Sofia in Oprah Winfrey’s musical “The Color Purple.”

Her legendary body of work and presence in the music and entertainment industry worldwide has earned her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011, an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music, the Grammy Honors Award, the BET Lifetime Achievement Award,  a tribute honor at the United Negro College Fund’s “An Evening of Stars Tribute,” the Soul Train Legend Award, the McDonald Corporation’s 365Black Award and the World Music Lifetime Achievement Award.
This profoundly hard-working, dynamically talented and entrepreneurial woman has even launched her own line of fragrances called “Khana Sutra,” chocolates, cleverly named “Chakalates,” as well as linen sprays and candles.
Despite setbacks in her health and personal life and struggles navigating the precarious music and entertainment world, Chaka Khan has proven to live up to her very own lyrics from “A Woman In A Man’s World,” from 1978:
For my very own
It’ll make me strong if I don’t give in
Cause the harder the fight
Oh, the sweeter the prize I’m sure to win

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