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Wednesday Jukebox: I Feel For You

March 23, 2011

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??

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2011 6:03 am

    What an awesome tribute to Miss Chaka Khan!!! This was great to wake up to.

    I love this deep cut from my final days in Europe:

  2. IrishUp permalink
    March 23, 2011 9:37 am

    MAN! Chaka Khan makes me instantly happy. This post prompted me to look her wiki up, and it would be shorter to list the people with whom she HASN’T collaborated (sure you expect Mary J, but Robert Palmer? Clay Aikens? woot!).

    Hearing “Tell Me Something Good” brings me right back to waiting on line for a ride called “The Himalaya” at a (long defunct) amusement park we went to when I was a kid; the kids who ran the ride must’ve loved it, b/c it ALWAYS seemed to be playing.

    The best holiday card I ever saw sported a pix of her Rufus-era divatastic self on the cover and a Star of David. Inside it read “Happy ChakaKhanukkah”.

    It would be hard to pick out a favorite, but one of them is her working with Quincy Jones and Ray Charles covering The Brothers Johnson’s “I’ll Be Good To You”

  3. March 23, 2011 10:04 am

    As the man says, “We gonna jam for y’all…” And he is a man of his word. Prince and Chaka lay down an extra layer of sweat over the already hot n’ heavy babymakin’ song “Sweet Thing” (Prince totally tore a page outta that book!)

    But the original has a candlelight and vaseline quality that Rufus and Chaka coined.

  4. March 23, 2011 11:20 am

    Ooh, I love “I’ll Be Good To You” and “Sweet Thing”. This post is making me so happy! 🙂

  5. March 23, 2011 12:50 pm

    Chaka is the best. I got to meet her when I was a young girl and she was and is a totally happy and fiercely feminist singer. She’s inspiring. “Sweet Thing” is such a pretty song.

    Gotta say that Fry Butter is like 2 for 2 this week for writings about some of my favorite people! Internet hugs!

  6. evmaroon permalink
    March 23, 2011 1:04 pm

    What an awesome tribute to Miss Chaka Khan!!! This was great to wake up to.

    My feelings exactly! I also love that I can slip in her name for “Jacques Lacan”—hey, it was funny in college.

    I LOVELOVELOVE “I Feel for You.” And “Sweet Thing” puts a grin on my face that lasts for hours.

  7. March 23, 2011 5:46 pm

    @Hollo – I met her once too! And she was soooo sweet and gracious. She told me I had cute hair. It was nearly 20 years ago and it still makes me happy.

  8. March 23, 2011 7:33 pm

    @Snarky’s: If I could say that Chaka told me I had cute hair, I’d be walking on air for days. So sweet!

    @IrishUp: I forgot to say before that “Happy ChakaKhanukkah” totally made my day.

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