Thursday, October 19, 2017

CHAKA KHAN

BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD

Telling Something Good!

In an exclusive interview, legendary singer Chaka Khan shares her thoughts on life, love and the future.

With a career that has spanned over 40 years in the entertainment industry, the legendary singer Chaka Khan is the embodiment of successful longevity. Born Yvette Stevens, the eldest of fi ve siblings, Khan’s legendary career — who among us doesn’t love such songs as “Sweet Thing,” “I’m Every Woman,” “I Feel for You,” “Through the Fire” and “Tell Me Something Good,” among other timeless classics — continues to evolve and inspire. Las Vegas Black Image Magazine caught up with the committed humanitarian, who will soon release her highly anticipated CD “The iKhan Project,” shortly after she received a special award in her hometown of Chicago. In a candid discussion, she reflected on her career, black womanhood and current events.

Congratulations on the recent honor you received in your hometown of Chicago — where a street, Chaka Khan Way, has been named after you!

I have received many honors, but this was one of the highest. It was very meaningful for me, because Chicago is my hometown — and the street [50th Street] that was renamed in my honor is right next to the high school I attended. There are so many memories for me there, from when I was in school, and when I was a Black Panther. I couldn’t be more honored.

You also performed a free outdoor concert in Millennium Park in Chicago during the weekend you were honored.

There were activities that entire weekend. I also joined Rev. Jesse Jackson and Operation PUSH (Rainbow PUSH Coalition) for a rally for our children, and identifying ways to keep them safe. We made an appeal to implement programs for the children in Chicago. I am really excited about joining forces with the national organization, Dress for Success, which will help so many of our young people open doors of opportunity.

How was your upbringing in Chicago different from the present-day environment?

My childhood was very different, because it was a different time. Today, our children are exposed to so much with the Internet and violence. Children have immediate access to any kind of information these days. It’s a very different world we live in. I was telling my granddaughter the other day — we had one of those five-hour conversations — how things were when I was growing up, and how I got my behind spanked. She was telling me how her friend came to school with bruises on her legs, and the school immediately called the authorities for an investigation.

It is a very different world. Which leads to the question of your thoughts about the Trayvon Martin case.

I think it was a travesty. I am also boycotting Florida, and have already canceled a show I was supposed to do there. This whole trial speaks volumes about how racism is very much alive in our country. I love people, and children are our greatest assets. A lot of them are either being killed or incarcerated, and not being educated. We have a lot of work to do.

What are your feelings about the alarming crime rate in Chicago’s inner city?

I am devastated. We also had a mother’s rally in Chicago, trying to galvanize mothers to keep their children safe.

On a lighter note, “Sweet Thing” is a national anthem for love. How did that song come to be?

Everyone sings with me when I sing “Sweet Thing” in concert. I love that. It’s not much of a story, but one day I came into the studio and the producer, Tony Maiden, was playing this beautiful chorus on the piano. I think we wrote the song in 10 minutes. To be honest, I wrote the song based on the kind of guy I would dream about having. It’s for every man.

We understand that you will performing at this year’s Neighborhood Awards in Las Vegas?

My website, ChakaKhan.com, shows everywhere I will be going. Las Vegas is a very interesting place. I also want people to go on my website and check out my Chaka Chakalates and Khana Sutra Candles.

We also have some questions for you submitted by our readers. Alex Bernal asks, “What artists who are no longer with us would you have liked to perform a duet with?”

Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway.

William Logan wants to know, “Could there ever be a Rufus featuring Chaka Khan reunion album with all new music?”

If we could, I am sure we would. There is a lot of bureaucratic red tape going on. We had our moment and time. It would be great, and we did try to come together around the time 9/11 happened — so everything was cut short. I would be very interested in doing it, if we could get nutcases out of the mix and stop blocking (it).

Charles McCall asks, “How do you feel about the state of R&B music today?”

I think it is on a beautiful and lovely upswing. When you look at people like Justin Timberlake — his new CD is fabulous, especially the first song. I also love artists like Ledisi and others. There are some great R&B artists out there right now and I don’t know all their names — but I listen to their music on the radio in the car with my kids.

Maurice Brown asks, “Can you explain to some of these young ladies how they can carry and conduct themselves in a positive manner?”

I think they should look into the Dress for Success program that I have partnered with.

This question is from Simone Davis: “What did you do to lose weight? You look fabulous.”

You know, this girl has always been in here. I went through some substance abuse and a bad relationship — and food became my boyfriend, you know what I mean? So, I quit that man (laughs) and things started looking up. I was also diagnosed with Type II diabetes and high blood pressure. I am raising my 12-year-old granddaughter, and bad health is not part of the program. I started juicing a lot — and juicing is the key. Your first shake in the morning is very important, and you have to stay active.

Lashawnda Gray asks, “What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned?”

Women in general — but especially black women — need to stop hating on one another. If we are saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” then that means we have to come together for our children. They are our diamonds in the rough and our assets. These are the people who will be taking care of us at some point in life and time. I think as women we have to be more supportive of one another and really, really be mothers and sisters.

Brian Moore wants you to describe your songwriting experience with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

It was always great working with them. They wrote the song “I’m Every Woman,” and they both really felt me. Nick Ashford will be missed, and Valerie is still doing her thing. It was great working with both of them.

And finally, this from Ida Marie Collins: “I just finished reading your book, ‘Through the Fire,’ and it was awe-inspiring. What is the best piece of advice you can offer to women in the entertainment industry, on maintaining stability as a businesswoman while remaining focused on your creative talents?”

We have to learn to be good stewards. Make sure that you have money upon retirement or when hard times come. It is so important to do this. It is also important to stay on top of your taxes. You might have an accountant, but you have to watch over what they are doing.

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