*In honor of Chaka Khan’s premature unmasking Wednesday night as Miss Monster on “The Masked Singer,” (although something tells us it was in her contract to only do two shows and bounce), we’re taking this opportunity to look back on some of her many career milestones thus far.
Born March 23, 1953, in Great Lakes, Illinois, Yvette Marie Stevens changed her name to Chaka Adunne Aduffe Yemoja Hodarhi Karifi in 1969 while she a member of the Black Panther Party. She dropped out of high school, married her first husband, Hassan Khan, in 1970 at age 17, and began going after her music career. She performing with a handful of groups before joining the R&B-funk band Rufus in the early 1970s, rocketing to stardom by fronting such hits as “Tell Me Something Good,” “Hollywood,” “Fool’s Paradise” and “Sweet Thing.”
Stevie Wonder penned “Tell Me Something Good” specifically for Rufus and Chaka. The track went on to sell more than a million copies and earn a Grammy Award for best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus.
Tell Me Something Good
Khan went solo in the late 70s and made an even bigger impact. While she still recorded with Rufus until the early 1980s, she released her first solo album “Chaka” in 1978, and its female empowerment single “I’m Every Woman,” written by Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.
I’m Every Woman
Dozens of hit singles followed throughout the 80s, including “Ain’t Nobody,” a cover of Prince’s “I Feel for You,” “What Cha Gonna Do for Me” and “Through the Fire.”
I Feel For You
What Cha Gonna Do For Me
Through The Fire
Though the popularity of Khan’s albums eventually dipped as musical trends shifted, she still released critically acclaimed music. She won another Grammy in 1990 for her duet with the legendary Ray Charles on “I’ll Be Good to You,” from Quincy Jones’ 1989 “Back on the Block” album, and another one in 1992 for “The Woman I Am.” In 1998, she released the well-received Prince–produced set “Come 2 My House,” which featured the track “Don’t Talk 2 Strangers.”
Don’t Talk 2 Strangers
I’ll Be Good To You
In the early 1990s, Khan left the United States for London to raise her two children. Her daughter Milini was born in 1973 and her son Damien was born in 1979. While there, she branched out into acting, appearing as Sister Carrie in the musical Mama, I Want to Sing. Near the end of the decade, she established the Chaka Khan Foundation, which provides education programs to at-risk children and helps low-income families with autistic children.
In 2003, Khan detailed her life story as well as her years of drug use in the autobiography, Chaka! Through the Fire. She told JET magazine at the time, “I think a big part of my drug thing was escaping from those feelings.”
The following year, Khan recorded an album of standards with the London Symphony Orchestra titled “ClassiKhan.”
The Making of ClassiKhan
Hey Big Spender – from ClassiKhan
Also in 2004, Khan faced a personal tragedy when her son Damien was arrested and charged with murder. He and a friend had been fighting in her home when Damien accidentally shot the other man. Khan attended the trial and testified on her son’s behalf. He was found not guilty in 2006.
In 2008, Chaka Khan made her Broadway debut and appeared as the character Sofia in the musical The Color Purple, based on the book by Alice Walker.
Chaka Khan and Quincy Jones – Miss Celie’s Blues
Making her first original recording in years, Khan returned to the studio to create 2007’s “Funk This,” featuring a diverse mix of songs and guests. The ballad “Angel” came from a poem she wrote while high years earlier.
The uptempo “Disrespectful” paired Khan with one of her musical protégées, Mary J. Blige, whose remake of Rufus’ “Sweet Thing” was among her biggest hits. Chaka also included a few more remakes on the album, including tracks by Prince, Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell.
Disrespectful (feat. Mary J Blige)
In July 2016, Khan announced that she was postponing her tour while she and her sister Yvonne (aka Taka Boom), would be entering rehab due to prescription drug addictions, having been moved to do so after the overdose-related death of Prince. “The tragic death of Prince has had us both rethinking and reevaluating our lives and priorities,” Khan said in an official statement. “We knew it was time to take action to save our lives. My sister and I would like to thank everyone for their support, love and prayers.”
By February of last year, Khan was drug free, living in Los Angeles, performing again and reflecting on her rehab stint.
On the Halloween episode of “Tamron Hall,” Chaka talked about her fashion, style and her iconic hair.
And that takes us to last night, when Khan was revealed as this season’s obligatory R&B legend on “The Masked Singer” following in the footsteps of Gladys Knight from season 1 and Patti Labelle from season 2. Khan said she was motivated to join the show after watching T-Pain perform and win season 1 as The Monster.
Stevie Wonder, Prince, Yolanda Adams and India.Arie pay tribute to Chaka Khan on BET.