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Chaka Khan at Schermerhorn

by Cass Teague

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Dynamic soul queen Chaka Khan will light up the Schermerhorn Symphony Center with her powerful voice and show-stopping stage presence on Saturday, July 6, at 8 pm. She’ll be joined by the Nashville Symphony for a night full of hits, including her anthem ‘I’m Every Woman’ and the irresistible ‘I Feel for You.’ With an incomparable style blending funk, jazz, rock and soul, this versatile singer, actress, producer and philanthropist has got it all, and at 60 years young, she’s never sounded better.

Chaka Khan, born Yvette Marie Stevens on March 23, 1953, widely known as the ‘Queen of Funk-Soul,’ is a 10-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter whose career has spanned four decades, beginning in the 1970s as the front woman and focal point of the funk band Rufus. While still a member of the group in 1978, Khan embarked on a successful solo career. Her signature hits, both with Rufus and as a solo performer, include ‘Tell Me Something Good,’ ‘Sweet Thing’ which she wrote for her then-husband Richard Holland, ‘Ain’t Nobody,’ ‘I’m Every Woman,’ ‘I Feel for You’ and ‘Through the Fire.’

Born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in Chicago’s rough South Side housing projects, she is the eldest of five children to Charles Stevens and Sandra Coleman. Her sister Yvonne Stevens later became a successful musician in her own right under the name Taka Boom. Her only brother, Mark Stevens, who formed the funk group Aurra, also became a successful musician. She has two other sisters, Zaheva Stevens and Tammy McCrary, who is her current manager.

Raised as Roman Catholic, Khan attributed her love of music to her grandmother, who introduced her to jazz music as a child. A fan of R&B music as a preteen, at 11 she formed her first all-female singing group the Crystalettes, with her sister Taka. In the late 1960s, Khan and her sister formed the vocal group Shades of Black and joined the Black Panther Party after befriending fellow member, activist and Chicago native Fred Hampton in 1967. While a member, she took the name Chaka Adunne Aduffe Hodarhi Karifi, given her by an African shaman. In 1969, she left the Panthers, dropped out of high school, having attended Calumet High School and Kenwood High School (now Kenwood Academy), and began to perform in small groups around the Chicago area, first performing with the group Lyfe, which included her then boyfriend Hassan Khan, whom she’d later marry. While performing in local bands in 1972, Khan was spotted by two members of a new group simply called Rufus and soon won her position in the group. The group later signed with ABC Records in 1973. Prior to Khan signing with the label, she married her on-again, off-again boyfriend Hassan Khan, changing her stage name to Chaka Khan.

Learn more about her and the remarkable work the Chaka Khan Foundation is doing at: <www.chakakhan.com>.

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