May 26, 2024

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Chaka Khan: ‘Someone said there were too many black people in our band. He put some white guys on stage with us’ | Chaka Khan


Born in Illinois, Chaka Khan, 71, joined the funk band Rufus in her teens and had hits with Tell Me Something Good and Ain’t Nobody. In 1978, she launched her solo career with the anthem I’m Every Woman. She has released 13 albums, won 10 Grammy awards and was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 1999, she established the Chaka Khan Foundation to help women and children at risk. This summer she curates Meltdown at the Southbank Centre, and performs at Nocturne Live at Blenheim Palace and at the Love Supreme jazz festival. She lives in Georgia in the US.

What is your greatest fear?
I am not afraid.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
That I have no patience.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
I guess lack of patience as well.

What is your most treasured possession?
My sanity.

Describe yourself in three words
I’m lazy: sleep is my favourite thing to do. I love to learn things, and I love children.

What would your superpower be?
To zap people out of the equation.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Nothing. I’m OK.

What is the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you?
A friend said, “If you remembered everything you did, you’d kill yourself.” He’s sort of crazy, but he’s probably right.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Smoking.

What makes you unhappy?
How hopeless things are looking on this planet. That’s my biggest sorrow. I am mourning the death of this planet already.

What was the last lie that you told?
You look pretty.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Snacks – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

What is the worst job you’ve done?
When Rufus first came out, it was all white guys and myself, but then the band changed and Tony Maiden, Bobby Watson and Andre Fischer came in. This guy booked us for a gig in Illinois, based on our original album cover, and when we got there he said that there were too many black people in the band. He actually put some white guys on the stage with us.

When’s the last time you changed your mind about something significant?
I do that almost daily. I am trying to fine-tune my life, so I am always trying to look at what we can change or fix to be more productive and more helpful. I want to be here for a good reason and not to just take up space and breathe in precious air for nothing.

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How often do you have sex?
Hardly ever.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Peace and honesty.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Staying alive, being here at this age. So many songs. It’s crazy.

What keeps you awake at night?
The fact that I’m a vampire.

Would you rather have more sex, money or fame?
None of those – I’m good.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To not be afraid, to stand there and be strong and loving and honest.

What happens when we die?
I think we start living another part of our lives. I think when you leave this plane, you live on another plane in another way and have done before.

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