A young, fierce-looking Chaka Khan behind the drum kit for Rufus back in the early 1970s.
Unless a significant generation gap presented itself, I would find it hard to trust someone who was not familiar with the “Queen of Funk” Chaka Khan. Likewise, I’d probably have trouble hanging out with someone that actually didn’t at least enjoy grooving to a few songs from Chaka’s vast body of work. I mean, saying you don’t dig Chaka Khan is pretty much the same thing as hating on Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner or Donna Summer. And you don’t want to be that guy, do you, dummy?
Born Yvette Marie Stevens, Chaka came into the world in 1953, a few years before the Chicago music scene exploded once again in the 60s and 70s. Meaning that she was old enough to properly bear witness to the baffling number of musical acts making things happen then. I’m talking the Staple Singers, the Chi-lites, Minnie Ripperton and Earth, Wind & Fire. And this is just a small sampling of the kind of musical genius that surrounded the soon-to-be-funky-as-hell singer during her most formative years. At the age of eleven, Khan (who was still going by her birth name Yvette Stevens) was already performing with her first band, the Crystalettes along with her sister Yvonne.
As she entered her teen years Chaka was exposed to the messages and activism of the Black Panther Party and at the age of fourteen, she became a part of the radical political organization. It would be during her time with the Panthers that she would acquire her new name Chaka Adunne Aduffe Yemoja Hodarhi Karifi. She became deeply involved in working with underprivileged youth in Chicago. Chaka soon dropped out of school and embarked on what would be a long musical career that continues to this day.
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