R&B singer Chaka Khan enjoyed solo success as well as popularity as a member of the group Rufus. Born Yvette Marie Stevens in Great Lakes, IL, on March 23,1953, she was raised on Chicago’s South Side, and at the age of 11 formed the Crystalettes, her first group. She joined the Afro-Arts Theater while still in high school, a group which toured with Mary Wells; a few years later, she adopted the African name Chaka Khan while working on the Black Panthers’ breakfast program. After quitting high school in 1969, Khan joined the group Lyfe, soon exiting to join another dance band, the Babysitters; neither was on the fast track to success, but her fortunes changed when she teamed with ex-American Breed member Kevin Murphy and André Fisher to form Rufus.
Chaka Khan, Al Ciner, André Fischer, Paulette McWilliams, Tony Maiden, Nate Morgan, Kevin Murphy, Ron Stockert, David “Hawk” Wolinski, Lee Graziano, Bobby Watson, Romeo Johnson.
One of the most commercially successful funk groups of the ’70s, the multi-racial Rufus are today best remembered for launching the career of Chaka Khan, whose fiery lead vocals were easily the band’s focal point. Powered by Khan and an unerring sense of groove, Rufus scored an impressive string of hit singles on both the pop and R&B charts, which lasted through the ’70s and up to Khan’s official departure in 1983.
Although Khan’s dynamic stage presence helped the band take off, Stockert was the guiding force when they signed with ABC in 1973, and he lent a more pop/rock flavor to the group’s self-titled debut, released later that year, although the album sold poorly. Pulled as a single from their second album (1974’s Rags to Rufus), “Tell Me Something Good” was a Top Five smash that turned Khan into a star; she also co-wrote the R&B chart-topping follow-up, “You Got the Love”. Clearly, the band had found its niche, and a number of personnel shifts ensued: Stockert left, Belfield was replaced by Bobby Watson, and Ciner was replaced by Tony Maiden. Their funk sensibility thus bolstered, Rufus returned with a strong new album before year’s end, “Rufusized”, which spawned two more hits in “Once You Get Started” and “Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me of a Friend)”.
Khan then launched her solo career in 1978, though she still remained an unofficial member of Rufus; but returned for one last go-round on 1983’s “Stompin’ at the Savoy”, a double-record set featuring three sides of live material and one side of new studio recordings. One of those new songs, “Ain’t Nobody”, became Rufus’ final number one R&B hit, and also won a Grammy, allowing the group to end its career on a high note. Khan finally left for good in ’83 after her contract was up and became a superstar, thanks to a cover of Prince’s “I Feel for You”.
Khan is a 10-time Grammy award winner, has released 22 albums and racked up ten (10) No1 Billboard magazine charted songs, seven (7) RIAA certified gold singles and ten (10) RIAA certified gold and platinum albums.