Black History Month: “Ain’t Nobody” like Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan was born Yvette Marie Stevens in 1953 in Chicago, Illinois.  She is the eldest of five children.  Two of whom, Yvonne Stevens (aka Taka Boom) and Mark Stevens of Aurra, became successful musicians as well.  At age 11 she and her sister formed at group call The Crystalettes

In the 1960s she joined the Black Panther Party and worked at the organizations breakfast program for children.  It was at this time that she adopted an African name given to her during a naming ceremony at the Afro-Arts Theatre, Chaka Adunne Aduffe Hodarhi Karifi.  In 1969 she left the Black Panthers and dropped out of High School and began performing around Chicago with her then boyfriend and soon to be husband, Hassan Khan, in the group Lyfe.

In 1972 she joined Rufus and the group later signed with ABC records.  In 1973 she married Hassan Khan and adopted the stage name Chaka Khan.  Rufus did not take off until Stevie Wonder wrote for them “Tell Me Something Good” that reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974 and sold over one million copies.

Throughout the 1970s Rufus continued their success releasing eight albums that went platinum.  In 1978 Chaka Khan started her solo career with the release of Chaka that went on to be a hit record with the song “I’m Every Woman,” which was written for her by Ashford & Simpson and also covered by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.

With the success of her solo recording she still had two records to record on her contract with Rufus and recorded Camouflage and Stompin’ at the Savoy – Live.  The latter featured “Ain’t Nobody” and won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.  The song remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for 26 weeks.

In 1984 she released her sixth solo record I Feel for You, with the title track being the first single that was originally written and recorded by Prince.  Chaka Khan’s is a distinctive version because of the introductory rap by Grandmaster Melle Mel and the harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder.

Another popular song that helped I Feel for You go platinum was “Through the Fire,” which was later sampled by Kanye West in “Through the Wire.”

Chaka Khan married her second husband in 1976, Richard Holland, and had two children.  Her daughter, Milini, born in 1973 of her first husband Hassan Khan, and Damien Holland from her second husband.

In 1999 she formed the Chaka Khan Foundation that “educates, inspires and empowers children in our community to achieve their full potential.”  The program also supports children and families with autism.  “We envision that through our mission we will give children who are at risk, either through poverty or through health issues like autism, the ability to achieve their dreams and give back to the community.”

In 2004, Chaka Khan was honored by Berklee College of Music and received an Honorary Doctorate.  It was presented by current Berklee College of Music President, Roger H. Brown, during his inauguration to the college.  She is pictured here with Arif Mardin a long time collaborator, former Berklee College of Music professor, and Honorary Doctorate recipient.

Khan and Mardin won a Grammy for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices for their work “Be Bop Medley.”

Over her three decade career Chaka Khan has released twenty-two albums, won ten Grammys, has seven RIAA certified gold singles, ten RIAA certified gold and platinum albums, and in 2011 was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame with Rufus and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Playlist: Berklee Alumni Garner 36 Grammy Nominations

For the 56th Grammy Awards the National Academy of Recording Arts Sciences nominated 31 Berklee College of Music Alumni in  19 categories for a total of 36 nominations.   For the third year in a row, Berklee Alumni are nominated in the top three categories: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year.

Imagine Dragons

Before the Grammys are broadcast live on Sunday, January 26, on CBS at 8:00 p.m. EST, be sure to listen to all the Berklee Alumni who are nominated on our Spotify Playlist, and for more information on Berklee and the nominations please click here.

[spotify spotify:user:berkleecmn:playlist:1CFa4l3wI9qPbxO5XJfG2n]

Record of the Year

  • “Radioactive,” artist: Imagine Dragons – Berklee nominees: Imagine Dragons members, guitarist Wayne Sermon ‘08, drummer Daniel Platzman ‘09, bassist Ben McKee ‘09Josh Mosser ‘05, engineer/mixer
  • “Locked out of Heaven,” artist: Bruno Mars – Berklee nominees: Jeff Bhasker ’99, co-producer; Josh Blair ’99, engineer/mixer
  • “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell – Berklee nominees: Tony Maserati ’86, engineer/mixer

Album of the Year

  • Red, artist: Taylor Swift – Berklee nominees: Jeff Bhasker ’99, co-producer; Pawel Sek ’00, engineer/mixer
  • Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Kendrick Lamar – Berklee nominees: Anna Wise ’10, featured artist; Dawaun Parker ’05, co-producer

Song of the Year

  • “Just Give Me a Reason,” artist: Pink featuring Nate Ruess – Berklee nominees: Jeff Bhasker ’99, co-songwriter.

Best Pop Instrumental Album

  • Hacienda – artist: Jeff Lorber Fusion – Berklee nominees: Jeff Lorber ’71
  • Summer Horns, artist: Dave Koz, Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair, and Richard Elliot – Berklee nominees: Mindi Abair ’91

Best Rock Performance

  • “Radioactive,” artist: Imagine Dragons – Berklee nominees: Imagine Dragons members, guitarist Wayne Sermon ’08, drummer Daniel Platzman ’09, bassist Ben McKee ’09

Best Metal Performance

  • “The Enemy Inside,” artist: Dream Theater – Berklee nominees: Dream Theater members, guitarist John Petrucci ’86, John Myung ’86
  • “In Due Time,” artist: Killswitch Engage – Berklee nominees: Killswitch Engage member Adam Dutkiewicz ’99

Best R&B Performance

  • “Something,” artist: Snarky Puppy with Lalah Hathaway – Berklee nominees: Lalah Hathaway ’94

Best R&B Song

  • “Love and War,” artist: Tamar Braxton – Berklee nominees: Makeba Riddick ’99, co-songwriter

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

  • “Stadium Jazz,” artist: Donny McCaslin – Berklee nominees: Donny McCaslin ’88, soloist

Best Jazz Vocal Album

  • After Blue, artist: Tierney Sutton – Berklee nominees: Tierney Sutton ’87

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

  • Guided Tour, artist: The New Gary Burton Quartet – Berklee nominees: The New Gary Burton Quartet members, vibraphonist Gary Burton ’62, guitarist Julian Lage ’08, and drummer Antonio Sanchez ’97
  • Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue, Terri Lyne Carrington – Berklee nominees: Terri Lyne Carrington ’83

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

  • Wild Beauty, artist: Brussels Jazz Orchestra feat. Joe Lovano – Berklee nominee: Joe Lovano ’72

Best Latin Pop Album

  • 12 Historias, artist: Tommy Torres – Berklee nominee: Tommy Torres ’94

Best Bluegrass Album

  • This World Oft Can Be, artist: Della Mae – Berklee nominee: Della Mae member Courtney Hartman ’12

Best Musical Theater Album

  • Kinky Boots, artist: Original Broadway Cast – Berklee nominee: Stephen Oremus ’92, co-producer

Best Instrumental Arrangement

  • Wild Beauty, artist: Brussels Jazz Orchestra featuring Joe Lovano – Berklee nominee: Gil Goldstein ’70, arranger

Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)

  • Swing Low, artist: Bobby McFerrin and Esperanza Spalding – Berklee nominee: Gil Goldstein ’70, arranger

Best Recording Package

  • Automatic Music Can Be Fun, artist: Geneseo – Berklee nominee: Mike Brown ’99, art director

Best Engineered Album, non-classical

  • …Like Clockwork, artist: Queens of the Stone Age – Berklee nominee: Gavin Lurssen ’91, mastering engineer

Victor Wooten Workshop at Stax Music Academy

Victor Wooten autographs a student’s bass.

Stax Music Academy (SMA) students were recently treated to a master class with five-time GRAMMY Award-winning bassist, Victor Wooten. All student musicians were invited to participate and bass players got the rare opportunity to engage in a Q&A and jam with one of the world’s foremost players of the instrument.  Wooten is a bass player, composer, author and producer. He has won the “Bass Player of the Year” award from Bass Player magazine three times in a row, and was the first person to win the award more than once.

Students who attended the workshop all agreed that it was inspiring.  SMA student Solomon Smith said about the workshop, “It was exciting and nice. The workshop inspired me to change my mindset on how I approach music.”

David McKenzie added, “The workshop was wonderful, it was the best workshop I have ever been to. It really touched my heart and inspired me to want more out of my guitar.”


Article and photos courtesy of Stax Music Academy.

For more information please read Soulsville Foundation and Stax Music Academy Newsletter: Click Here

Jazz Generations Benefit Concert at Project RYTMO

Anaheim’s RYTMO (Reaching Youth for Music Opportunities) will be hosting it’s 2nd Annual Jazz Generations on Friday, June 14, 2013, 7:30pm at the Sunkist Church of Anaheim: 701 S. Sunkist Street, Anaheim, CA.

The fundraiser will feature the sophisticated jazz sounds of “Open Hands” featuring Abraham Laboriel (bass), Justo Almario (sax), Bill Maxwell( drums) and Greg Mathieson (keyboards).

World-renowned Brazilian composer and pianist, Rique Pantoja will serve as music director for the RYTMO House Band, consisting of RYTMO students and professional musicians including Del Atkins (Patti LaBelle, Pointer Sisters), Ricky Z, (Christina Aguilera, Josh Groban), Angie Fischer (Mary J. Blige, American Idol) and several guest celebrity artists.

Proceeds will go directly to benefit RYTMO students selected to attend the Berklee 5-week Summer Camp in Boston. All donations are tax-deductible. For more information call: (714) 776-0467