PALM SPRINGS, CA: Queen of Funk Chaka Khan is set to perform at one of the largest lesbian events in the world – the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend 2012.
Aside from her iconic status and a musical career that spans four decades, Khan is also a 10-time Grammy Award–winning singer/songwriter who shows no signs of slowing down.
After declaring she was free from drugs and alcohol in 2005, Khan returned to the spotlight when she released Funk This, what many critics called her “comeback album.” It featured the hit song “Angel” and the Mary J Blige duet “Disrespectful.” The latter track shot to number one on the US dance singles chart, winning the duo a Grammy Award, while Funk This also won a Grammy for Best R&B Album.
In 2008, Khan starred on Broadway in the adaptation of The Color Purple, and in May 2011 she was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Xtra writer Patricia Lever chatted with Khan ahead of her appearance at this year’s Dinah.
Xtra: Past performers at Club Skirts have included the Pussycat Dolls, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. How does it feel to be headlining the world’s biggest gathering of lesbians?
Chaka Khan: It’s fabulous! My gay and lesbian fans have always been there for me. They are my most loyal, and I promise them an awesome show. We’re going to have a wonderful time.
Your signature hit, “I’m Every Woman,” is certainly the song for The Dinah – a message of empowerment for women . . . the girls will go crazy.
That’s what it’s all about . . . being empowered. And we are powerful, more than we know.
Countless drag queens have lip-synched to “I’m Every Woman” over the years, and you’ve supported various Pride events with your performances. How does it feel to be a gay icon?
It means a lot to me, because gays will read you. They know when you’re genuine and when you’re not.
You’ve won 10 Grammys, worked with music legends such as Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Prince, and the list goes on. What has been your ultimate career achievement?
My ultimate career achievement to date, without a doubt, was working with Miles Davis.
In September 2011, you were nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How did it feel?
The nomination was a huge honour. It was a wonderful moment to share with my family and Stevie Wonder by my side. It left me speechless.
With all the changes in the music industry, and, of course, the pervasiveness of the internet, do you find these changes have added to your career and longevity?
Technology has changed so much in the music industry. Ultimately, I believe that it helps because it allows greater access – both faster and more direct. I enjoy doing live chats with my fan-friends. I’ve said it before; I’m very optimistic about the changes in the recording industry, including music downloading. I’m glad things are shifting, and artists – not labels – are having more control over their art.
In recent years, you’ve turned your attention toward the Chaka Khan Foundation. Tell me why creating this foundation was so close to your heart.
Well, it provides support and education to children and young adults who are victims of domestic violence, substance abuse and autism – issues that have been in my life. Empowering the innocent is my passion and purpose. Children and women at risk are who we assist through the foundation.
Patricia Lever is an Ottawa-based radio announcer at 101.9 DAWG-FM.