Taken from Miami (Feb 14, 2017)
Chaka Khan is every woman and a street in Chicago
by Michael Hamersly
Chaka Khan feels for you. Credit: Handout
Chaka Khan is known as the Queen of Funk, but the 10-time Grammy-winning singer of such pop-R&B anthems as â€śAinâ€™t Nobody,â€ť â€śI Feel For Youâ€ť and â€śIâ€™m Every Womanâ€ť finds that label awfully limiting.
â€śIâ€™m honored,â€ť said Khan, whose vast repertoire dips into styles as diverse as jazz, pop, rock, funk, gospel, dance and even country and classical. â€śBut Iâ€™m so musically eclectic that it just doesnâ€™t cover it for me [laughs]. I mean, Iâ€™m proud, and Iâ€™m thankful and all that, you know. But hereâ€™s a person who all my musical life, Iâ€™ve hated being boxed in. And what do I get? [Laughs] Boxed in. So, it is what it is.â€ť
Khan, who began her career in 1972 as the 18-year-old lead singer for the funk band Rufus (â€śTell Me Something Goodâ€ť) before spreading her wings as a solo artist, will command the stage Friday night at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami and at West Palm Beachâ€™s Kravis Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night.
Look here for Chaka's Instagram-Msg No. 1
Fans can expect a concert spanning Khanâ€™s entire career, serving up most, but not all, of the hits (â€śThat would take me several days,â€ť she said). Khan â€“ who has collaborated with dozens upon dozens of artists, including Prince (he wrote â€śI Feel For Youâ€ť), Stevie Wonder (he wrote â€śTell Me Something Goodâ€ť specifically for Khan and played the impossibly high harmonica solo on â€śI Feel For Youâ€ť), Ray Charles, Steve Winwood, Quincy Jones, Mary J. Blige, Bruce Hornsby and even Coolio â€“ also implied that there might be a special guest or two.
â€śAt one of my shows, who knows whoâ€™s gonna be there?â€ť she said. â€śWeâ€™re hoping that most people will go home satisfied.â€ť
In 2013, Khanâ€™s hometown of Chicago renamed the street where her high school sits as Chaka Khan Way, an honor she called â€śalmost an unachievable thing in that city, for a black person. That means a lot more to me than the 10 Grammys.â€ť
Look here for Chaka's Instagram-Msg No 2
Decades later and Chaka Khan still has it. Credit: Timothy Fielding
It all might never have come to pass. For someone who found such stunning success at an early age, Khan â€“ who cites the jazz artists that her father loved, such as Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Stan Getz, as early musical influences â€“ says being a professional singer didnâ€™t cross her mind until, well, it actually happened.
â€śI was like every child, who wanted to be a veterinarian one day, a fireman the next, a teacher â€“ you know,â€ť she recalled. â€śI went through those phases, too. I guess [I got serious] at about 19 or 20, when I started making money, and it became my job.â€ť
And itâ€™s still a job. Although singing has brought Khan immense joy, satisfaction, fame, glory and riches, she makes it clear itâ€™s not all thrills, all the time.
Asked what inspired 30 artists over the years to cover the song â€śAinâ€™t Nobody,â€ť Khan got candidly real:
â€śI donâ€™t know â€“ itâ€™s a great song. It must have a little of everything, a story for so many people to feel as strongly about it as they do. Iâ€™m happy that they do, because itâ€™s one of the few songs I still like singing.â€ť
Which raises the question: How does Khan get up for singing some of the songs sheâ€™s simply tired of performing?
â€śI canâ€™t get it up for all of them, honestly, but the crowd helps,â€ť she said. â€śThe fact that they want to hear it is the impetus. Iâ€™m there to please, so â€¦â€ť
For many fans, itâ€™s impossible to hear the name Chaka Khan without mentally launching into the famous rap by Grandmaster Melle Mel on â€śI Feel For Youâ€ť that starts off, â€śChaka Khan, let me rock you, let me rock you, Chaka Khan/Let me rock you, thatâ€™s all I wanna do.â€ť
But she says she had nothing to do with that rhyme; in fact, it wasnâ€™t even her idea to include it in the song.
â€śAbsolutely not,â€ť she said. â€śI canâ€™t take the credit for that. It was a stroke of genius that belongs to Arif Mardin, my producer at the time, who is no longer with us.â€ť
As for Prince, who died much too young at age 57 on April 21, Khan said, simply: â€śWe were very close, and I miss him very, very much. You know, when your time comes, your time comes.â€ť
IF YOU GO
What: Chaka Khan
When: 8 p.m. Friday at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Knight Concert Hall, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722 or http://www.arshtcenter.org/; $45-$125; and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Dreyfoos Hall, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach; 561-832-7469 or http://www.kravis.org/; $25-$115