Classics: Chaka Khan – I’m Every Woman (Warner Bros.)
Chaka Khan is one of the most talented artists of her generation. She first got to recognition as a member of Soul/Funk band Rufus. And this, before makin’ herself a name along with time…
It all started back in 1978 with the release of her ‘Chaka’ album although she was still recording with Rufus back then. Its opening cut, ‘I’m Every Woman’ would be her first hit as a solo artist. And, in the meantime, the first of a substancial series of classics. From ‘Clouds’ to ‘I Feel For You’. Not to mention ‘Ain’t Nobody’ or ‘I Know You, I Live You’ among others.
‘I’m Every Woman’ is a monument in many senses of the term. It had a huge impact for those who contributed to its recording. From Ashford & Simpson who increased their profile as songwriters. To Arif Mardin who produced it, remainin’ true to the spirit of its authors while givin’ it a sophisticated feel. But also a then 14 years old Whitney Houston who along with her mom (Cissy Houston) sang the backing vocals.
‘I’m Every Woman’ would resurface back in 1989 as a part of Chaka’s ‘Life Is Dance: The Remix Project’ album. With UK producer Dancin’ Danny D (D-Mob) responsible for the rework. Meanwhile the late Whitney Houston gave it a brilliant cover version 4 years after… Teaming up with producer Narada Michael Walden. With remixes courtesy of Cole & Clivilles of the C&C Music Factory fame.
Her version appeared on the soundtrack to the movie ‘The Bodyguard’, where she starred as a singer under the protection of Kevin Costner. The soundtrack is the best-selling of all time, with worldwide sales of over 44 million.
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, ‘Disrepectful’ 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.