Black Music Month Artist Of The Day: Day 16

The spotlight artist of the day, is Rufus, featuring Chaka Khan. Highly popular in the 70’s and 80’s, Rufus was synonymous with helping to define the R&B/Soul sound. Chaka Khan, a diva in her own right, began her career with the band. Blending dance songs with soulful ballads makes Rufus the artist of the day. Here’s one of my favorite songs: Sweet Thing.

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Catching Up With Chaka Khan


Belinda Thomas, one of the reps from Spotlight on Music recently attended the I Create Music ASCAP Expo in Hollywood, California. The ASCAP EXPO is the place to connect you face to face with the world’s leading songwriters, composers and industry expert, who are all part of ASCAP’s network of committed music creators, and here to help you guide you to greater success.The festival is for three days each year in Hollywood, California.

The legendary Chaka Khan spoke on a panel titled Generations. She was interviewed by LeToya Luckett. Luckett is an R&B singer- songwriter, actress and entrepreneur who is best known as a founding member of the group Destiny’s Child.

Here is a recap from the panel.

Chaka Khan was introduced and recognized for first for winning ten Grammys, with the last two being for her 2006 CD “Funk This”.

LL: How do your balance your family and your music?

CK: Her family is just like every other family. They have happy times and drama . Her priorities were her children and now her grandchildren are the prize. She also stated that her own parents have always been really supported of her, so she is very supported of her children.

LL: What inspires you to write songs?

CK: Chaka stated that life aspires her. She has to be inspired to write. She doesn’t write songs in minutes like a lot of songwriters. She usually writes one song every three months.
She also stated that she did not write “Sweet Thing” for anyone in particular that she just said she did at the time it came out.
She also stated that she has an I Phone to use for text messaging stuff that inspires her when she does to write. She says that lyrics are the most important because it is the communication.

LL: What artist inspires you past or present?

CK: Marvin Gaye who she almost did a duet with.
Miles Davis who she said that she was the first person to ever sing with him.
Led Zepplin, Kid Rock, Billie Holiday, Miriam Macaba, Letoya Luckett (etc).

LL: Is there any one who you would like to work with?

CK: Stevie Wonder, even though he did write “Tell Me Something Good for Rufus, that they had never sung together.She also mentioned an Indian artist who she called the Michael Jackson on India. Chaka then ask the audience to suggest any one that they would like to see her work with. She told the audience to send her suggestions through her web site.

LL: What do you think of music today?

CK: Chaka stated that she doesn’t listen to the radio at all. The lyrics for a lot of the songs need not be for kids and it should be censor. Censorship needs to be in music especially where kid are involved. She also said that she is sober and how she no longer has shows drunk or fighting or anything of negative drama and she has done in the past. However, she did say that she felt that finally music today is coming back.

LL: How does she prepare on a show day?

CK:Chaka stated that she relaxes in the morning and the afternoon. Has her assistant Tony handle things .She does her warm ups, screams and prays. She said that she has a fear of being accepted. She said on stage there is a fear of being accepted during the first three songs before she can relax once getting the audiences reaction. Chaka then asked Letoya what she does on show days.
Letoya stated that she also warms up her vocals, listen to vowels, praying and also zoning out.

LL:What advice do you have for new artists?

CK: Being in the music business means:
not fun and games
it is a lot of hard work
you forfeit your life
you satisfy your life for a microphone
you do not know if someone loves you or if they love Chaka Khan
you give up a lot
you need to think a lot
take courses in law basically to know how to read your contracts
read the fine print

She also said that she liked how with new artists today now has their music belongs to them and not the record company so their is no more record company prostitution in her own words.
She also feel that big labels are on their way out and that artists are taking their music straight to the people now. However she does think that artists should get paid for their music whether it be $4.99 to $12.99. A lot of it is being lost because of downloading.

LL: How do you feel about record companies no longer having artist development departments:

CK: She likes it because it is different. Now a days you have to already be a “package deal for the labels. This is a better way to do it to her because it is your own. Before they would plan your image, songs and even how you sing. She would be in the studio and they would tell her..”can you sing it more like so and so”? Her attitude would be “then why don’t you get so it so to sing it then” with a laugh.

She also mentioned how Kwane West asked her to sample his song and how much it meant to him. She said OK but when the final version came out she did not liked it at all. If she did it again , she would like to hear the song first before it is out there. The song is “Through the Fire ” which Kwane West sampled on his song, “Through The Wire”.

LL: How does she handle writer’s block.

CK:Chaka said that she just stops because you can’t force it and that the best songs are written in two minutes.

LL: How do you feel about women in the industry and how it has changed?

CK:Chaka states that gender should not have anything to do with it. Looks play into a package , but you have to stand on your rock. All artists are all asked to changed into a package to sell but you have been strong.

LL: How do you stay focus?

CK: Chaka stated that she does not read the gossip columns, she doesn’t read reviews since most reviews are frustrated artists. She is here to be a singer not to be judged.

LL: What do you think about being called a “diva”?

CK: Chaka said that it used to bother her, but now she doesn’t care. She rather spend the energy on something more important.

LL:What is your next release and when is it coming out?

CK: Chaka says that she does not have a current CD out at the moment. However, she does have a foundation for artistic children. She is planning a gala and have artistic children run every thing. She wants to record a record with them and have them play on the record, engineering it and orchestrated it.

She also mentioned that singles singles are different are harder to get in the store now a day one you release them.

LL:How do you do your hair?
CK: Chaka says that she does her own styling which is good and at times has been bad for her. She likes to be comfortable. She hates to dress up.

LL: How do you relax?
CK: Chaka says that she likes to get a massage, do pilates (three times a week), cooking, playing with her grand kids, washing clothes.

At this time the forum was open to take questions from members of the audience: Here are the questions and answers from Chaka Khan…

Audience question # 1 How did you like working with Arif Martin?

CK: Chaka stated that Arif was the 80s-90s # 1 producer. There is no one like him and that the closest thing to him is Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. She discussed the song” Afraid of you” by Rufus. The audience member mentioned that he was working with David Gamson of Scritti Politti. Chaka asked where David was and if any one has the first Scritti Politti record because she needs a copy and can not find one any where.

Question # 2 What is the difference in radio now?

CK: Chaka likes that musicians are being used now for songs instead of samples. She also likes that hip hop artists are now having live bands.

Question # 3 What is your advice to an Indian singer?

CK: Chaka says with Slumdog Millionaire so hot she should have and be able to find some leads. She told her to wait for her after wards and she will give her some leads.

Question # 4 What kind of music do you like to listen to?

CK: Chaka said that lately she has been listening to a lot of country because their songs tells a story. She also likes to listen to jazz as well.She also stated that some of the early early Rufus songs were country style.

Question # 4 Do you like or sing gospel music?

CK: Chaka stated that she is not a gospel singer at all and can not sing it. She was not familiar with it growing up like a lot of people. She does like Fred Hammond.

As the Q&A was running low on time, Chaka had many request from people who wanted to sing for her, work with her and more so she told any one who wanted to , to go off to the side after the panel and she would meet with people individually.

Over all this was such a good panel. You really got to learn a lot about Chaka .It was good to see someone of her status, not being just professional but very down to earth and personal as well.