This Day in Black History: March 23, 1953
Aretha Franklin may be the Queen of Soul, but singer, songwriter and actor Chaka Khan holds the title of Queen of Funk.
Born Yvette Marie Stevens on March 23, 1953, in Chicago, Illinois, Khan achieved fame as part of the soul-funk band Rufus. The multiple Grammy Award winner's greatest hits include "Tell Me Something Good," "I'm Every Woman" and "Ain't Nobody."
Khan began her music career at age 11, when she formed the group the Crystalettes with her sister Yvonne. She adopted the name Chaka Adunne Aduffe Yemoja Hodarhi Karfi after joining the Black Panther Party in 1969 and dropping out of high school.
She joined Rufus in the early '70s and the group released its first album in 1973. Their second album, released the following year, was a far greater commercial success and included the single "Tell Me Something Good," written by Stevie Wonder. They also won a Grammy Award for best R&B vocal performance by a duo, group or chorus. Soon the group was renamed Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and then Rufus and Chaka.
Khan released a solo album in 1978, and in 1983, won two Grammys as a solo artist and one as a member of Rufus and went on to win more, even as her music career began to wane.
She moved to London with her two children in the early '90s, settling later in Germany, and started the Chaka Khan Foundation to aid at-risk women and children. In 2003, she published her autobiography, Chaka! Through the Fire, in which she detailed her struggle with substance abuse.
Over the years, Khan has continued to make music. She made her Broadway debut in 2008 in the role of Sofia, a character in the Alice Walker novel The Color Purple.
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(Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)