With larger-than-life tresses and a soaring voice to match, Chaka Khan was able to cement herself as the “Queen of Funk Soul” – a moniker that has stuck through her nearly 40-year recording career.
She was born Yvette Marie Stevens in Chicago, and later got the name Chaka Adunne Aduffe Hodarhi Karifi from an African priest. Khan, her surname, was the result of a brief marriage in 1970.
In the late 1960s, she formed the vocal group Shades of Black, along with her sister, and joined the Black Panther Party. But her break came in 1972, when an 18-year-old Khan joined funk rock outfit Rufus. After an album didn’t take off, the band released its breakout “Rags to Rufus” in 1974. Led by the Stevie Wonder-produced "Tell Me Something Good" and "You Got the Love," which she composed, the album was a smash and went platinum. Due to Khan’s rising popularity, the group became known as Rufus featuring Chaka Khan.
Khan remained a member of Rufus while she inked a solo deal with Warner Bros. in 1978. Though she would go on to contribute to six more albums with Rufus, the band released three without her, including its final album, 1983’s “Seal in Red.” Her eponymous solo debut followed with its first single being the anthemic "I'm Every Woman" – one of the singer’s signature tunes.
Her music remained a staple in R&B and hip-hop, as she released a stable of hits such as "Ain't Nobody," "I Feel for You," "Sweet Thing ”and “Through the Fire.” Covers of her songs have been successful for other artists as well: Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige and Kanye West are just a few that have used Khan’s catalog.
Not immune to public scrutiny, Khan’s personal life over the years has gotten its share of ink, as the singer has battled with drug abuse, alcoholism, infidelities and issues with her weight. In 2006, her son Damien Holland was accused of murder – though later acquitted – after a teenager was shot to death in her home. The singer testified during a very public trial.
During her career, Khan has earned 10 Grammy Awards, including two for her 2007 album “Funk This.” Khan was also the recipient of the BET Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
She has been married three times and has two children. Khan lives in Los Angeles, Germany and London.