The first time I saw Chaka Khan in person was in concert in the mid-1980s at the Westbury Music Fair, which was not a music fair but the name of a theater. Her career was at its commercial height, with her cover of Prince’s “I Feel For You” becoming her twelfth top 40 pop hit in 1984. Like her 1974 single with Rufus, the Stevie Wonder-penned “Tell Me Something Good,” it peaked at #3. “I Feel for You” stayed on the Hot 100 for a full six months, longer than any of her prior singles.
The second time I saw Chaka Khan in person was in the early 1990s. I was working in the Accounting department at Sony Music. I took the elevator down from my 11th floor office to the building sky lobby, headed out for I don’t know what. As I turned the corner of the elevator bank I saw that hair. Chaka Khan was a few feet in front of me. I’m not often star struck, but CHAKA KHAN!!! I didn’t see with whom she was speaking until he said “Glenn, come over.” It was the Vice President of Urban Music for Epic Records, one of Sony’s labels. I was friendly with him through working on his expense account.
“Glenn, Chaka Khan. Chaka Khan, Glenn Schwartz.”
“Hi,” said Chaka Khan.
“You are the ultimate sex goddess of life,” I replied. Inappropriate? Perhaps, but true. This was CHAKA KHAN, a woman on whom I’ve had a crush since “Tell Me Something Good” was a hit.
“Thanks,” she said, which was code for “I need to leave now.”
In 2005 I was the Vice President of Licensing at Warner Music, the record company that controls most of Chaka’s solo work. I attended a benefit for The Chaka Khan Foundation, a charity the singer founded that through grants, scholarships and educational outreach programs assists women and children at risk. It was held in the backyard of someone’s Beverly Hills residence. As we got hors d’oeuvres and mingled, Kenny G walked around tooting his horn (literally). We were seated for dinner and then treated to a mini concert from Chaka. “I’m Every Woman,” “Ain’t Nobody” and a few others, all in the intimate setting of a backyard. Wow. CHAKA KHAN!!! This time I didn’t approach her – what if she remembered me and what I said the last time we met? Quelle embarrassment!
Today the woman born Yvette Marie Stevens turns 62 years old. She’s more than the ultimate sex goddess of life, as this playlist will attest.
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I am so jealous you’ve met Chaka, you were not wrong in your assessment, I’m sure she was (mostly) flattered. That voice is a miracle.