Wednesday Jukebox: I Feel For You
On this day in 1953, in the great city of Chicago, Yvette Marie Stevens was born. After the blessing of a shaman and a marriage to a bassist, the name Chaka Khan was adapted by Stevens as she became a singer and songwriter who scored Grammy-winning hits with the funk group Rufus, as well as on her own.
Khan is frequently described as fiery, fierce, or funky – none of which is untrue, but her musical abilities are sometimes glossed over. Her voice is equal parts resonate and breezy, with astounding breath control that makes her well suited for syncopated funk, intricate jazz patterns, and long soulful phrasings. At a very young age when just getting her start with the band Rufus, she caught the ears of Stevie Wonder, who wrote this song specifically for her:
Trivia you will never use: this is one of the first hits to use the guitar talk box!
Musical geniuses love to write songs for her: in addition to Wonder, her hit “I’m Every Woman” was done by Ashford & Simpson. Although “I Feel For You” was written by Prince, it had previously been recorded by other artists and not specifically made for her, and it was Chaka’s inclusion of Stevie’s harmonica and Melle Mel’s rap that helped make it a standout hit.
Whenever I hear “Ain’t Nobody”, it’s hard not imagine I’m walking through the subway during the opening credits of my movie. Or, you know, this:
There are some people in London right now who might be a bit sick of Chaka, because their neighbor took his love for her music as a cure for his broken heart a little too far and played “I’m Every Woman” on repeat for hours as a time, but for the rest of us, we can stand to celebrate a little.
Happy birthday, Chaka Khan! What is your favorite song of hers, a well-known hit or a deep cut? With Rufus or alone? Just as important, what’s your favorite Chaka Khan outfit and hair??