Chaka Khan is a true Renaissance Woman. A singer, songwriter, producer, visual artist, author, actor, philanthropist, entrepreneur, activist and mother, Chaka is an international music icon who has influenced multiple generations of artists and continues to do so. From the moment she burst onto the music scene in the 1970s as the 18-year-old lead singer of the multiracial band Rufus, her powerful voice and show-stopping stage presence set her apart from any other singer, and during her 40-year career, she has developed a vast international fan base and performed on six continents.
Chaka is a ten-time GRAMMY® Award winner (with 22 GRAMMY® nominations) who has the rare ability to sing in eight music genres, including R&B, jazz, pop, rock, gospel, country, classical and dance music. She has released 22 albums and racked up ten #1 Billboard magazine charted songs, eight RIAA certified gold singles and eleven RIAA certified gold and platinum albums. Chaka’s recorded music has produced over 2,000 catalogue song placements.
She is also the recipient of numerous awards for her extraordinary achievements in music and entertainment including a street named after her in Chicago (her hometown) – “Chaka Khan Way,” a BET Honors Award, induction into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame; a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and with the United Negro College Fund’s An Evening of Stars Tribute; a Soul Train Legend Award, a BET Lifetime Achievement Award, the GRAMMY® Honors Award from the NARAS Chicago Chapter, a World Music Lifetime Achievement Award, and an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA. Later this year Chaka will receive an award in New York City from The We Are Family Foundation for her various humanitarian endeavours.
In 1999, she established the Chaka Khan Foundation, which includes a variety of programs and initiatives that assist women and children at risk. In 2013, the Chaka Khan Foundation combined forces with Community Partners to continue and expand its reach into the community, where it continues to do so. In July, 2012, Chaka received the McDonald Corporation’s 365Black Award, honoring her for her leadership of the Chaka Khan Foundation. Besides being a successful musician and a devoted philanthropist, she is also a successful entrepreneur, having launched a line of gourmet chocolates, Chakalates, which was sold in 20 Neiman Marcus stores around the country. In 2013, she introduced the Khana Sutra candle, the first product in a fragrance line for men, women and the home.
Chaka Khan was born Yvette Stevens in 1953. She grew up in Chicago, Illinois, the eldest of five siblings. As teenagers, she and her sister Bonnie formed a singing group, The Crystalettes, with two friends from school, and Chaka later sang with several local groups before she became the lead singer for the band Ask Rufus, which would become Rufus. With Chaka the group immediately began turning out hit after hit, and it was the beginning of a legendary music career.
Living for a time in London and Germany, she currently resides in Los Angeles. She has two children, Indira Milini and Damien. Her life and career are chronicled in her autobiography, Through the Fire, which was published by Rodale Books in 2003 and is currently being updated for re-release and adapted into a screenplay. Another book featuring the music and lyrics of many of her hit songs, The Chaka Khan Songbook, was released this past December.
Chaka Khan recently celebrated her 40th anniversary in music and entertainment. A documentary series on her, “Being,” premiered on the Centric Channel and recent career highlights include tour dates around the world (London, Singapore, Prague, Dubai, NYC, et al), a performance on The Wendy Williams Show, an event in her honor at NARAS/Grammy headquarters in Los Angeles, an appearance with Sam Smith on VH1, special performances for Ebony and Essence Magazines, and being named Grand Marshal for Chicago’s Bud Billiken Parade, the largest and oldest African American parade.
Chaka is currently at work on a series of mixed media visual works with a planned gallery exhibition in 2016, as well as a new CD, set for release later in 2015.