Classics: Chaka Khan – I Feel For You (LP Version) (Warner Bros.)
Strange as to how on occasions things depend on the way planets are aligned… Just take ‘I Feel For You’ for instance. Prince wrote it and submitted it to Patrice Rushen who rejected it. He then eventually included it on his 1979 eponymous album. But who remembers this, as most likely overshadowed by ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ and ‘Sexy Dancer’? Both The Pointer Sisters then Rebbie Jackson covered it, respectively in 1982 and 1984. But here again who really remembers?
Then came Chaka‘s version of ‘I Feel For You’ along with an all-star supporting cast. From Stevie Wonder on harmonica to David Frank of The System fame on bass synth. Not to mention the famous introductory rap by Grandmaster Melle Mel. A part whose repetition was admittedly a mistake made by producer Arif Mardin, who nevertheless decided to keep it. This resulting in the first ever major hit featuring a rapper. And, in the meantime, one of Billboard‘s five biggest Pop songs of the year for 1985.
A Chicago, IL native, Chaka Khan was born to a family of artists. With one of her sisters, Yvonne, who made herself a name as Taka Boom. And her brother (Mark Stevens) who co-founded Aurra with Steve Washington. Speakin’ of her, her dad said she was a beatnik. Meanwhile, according to her mom, she was able to do anything. Her CV – she has won 10 Grammys and sold an estimated more than 70 million albums worldwide – speakin’ for itself…
Chaka most likely credits her grandmother for havin’ introduced her to Jazz as a child. A Rhythm And Blues fan, she eventually formed a girl group – the Crystalettes – along with her sister, Taka, at the age of 11. Performing in local nightclubs during her teenage years in the 60’s, she replaced Paulette McWilliams who was the lead singer of American Breed, back in 1971. Later that year, the group would turn their name to Rufus.
Their eponymous debut-album, which saw the light in 1973, failed to generate a consistant following. Success would come the year after though with the Stevie Wonder produced ‘Tell Me Something Good’.
In 1975, Chaka met Quincy Jones on a plane. This leading her to collaborate with him on ‘Stuff Like That’. The Dude also producing the memorable ‘Do You Love What You Feel’ for the then called Rufus & Chaka Khan in 1979.
Although periodically continuing with the band, Chaka Khan launched her solo career in 1978. Ashford & Simpson writing and producing the memorable ‘I’m Every Woman’ for her. ‘Naughty’, her second album followed 2 years after, strengthening her working relationship with producer Arif Mardin. It spanned 3 singles. From ‘Clouds’ (also written by Ashford & Simpson) to ‘Get Ready, Get Set’. Not to mention the Greg Diamond penned ‘Papillon (a.k.a. Hot Butterfly)’.
Chaka went back with Rufus on the 1981 ‘Camouflage’ album before releasing her third opus, ‘What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me’. The singer increasing her popularity among the Jazz audiences. With thanks for the inclusion of the Dizzy Gillespie‘s composition ‘Night In Tunisia’ with a guest appearance by the latter himself.
1983 would see the release of Rufus‘s final album, ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy – Live’. And in the meantime ‘Ain’t Nobody’ as fronted by Chaka, standing as their final hit. The group disbanding soon after its release.
Chaka Khan went back to #1 position in the charts the year after with the title track of her ‘I Feel For You’ album. A song which Prince had written and recorded back in 1979. Her version featuring a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder and an introductory rap by Grandmaster Melle Mel.
Extra success would come with the 1989 ‘Life is a Dance: The Remix Project’ album. A double pack which features some of her greatest successes. From ‘I’m Every Woman’ to ‘Clouds’ respectively remixed by Dancing Danny D (D-Mob) and C & C Music Factory. Not to mention ‘Ain’t Nobody’ which she initially recorded with Rufus, with rework courtesy of Frankie Knuckles. And also ‘Life Is A Dance’ as reshaped by David Morales.
In 1990, Chaka teamed up once again with Quincy Jones. Sharing the vocal duties with Ray Charles on ‘I’ll Be Good To You’ which The Brothers Johnson originally sang back in 1976. And two years later, she topped the charts once more with ‘Love You All My Lifetime’ from her ‘The Woman I Am’ album.
Extra gems worth the mention from her including the 1995 ‘Watch What You Say’ which she recorded with the late Guru. And more recently, ‘Disrespectful’ along with Mary J Blige, from her 2007 ‘Funk This’ album. A cut which Matthias Heilbronn boosted in an explosive way, delivering one of his best reworks ever. Meanwhile, justice was to be paid to ‘I Know You I Live You’ with its release as a single with an edit courtesy of Danny Krivit.