Chaka Khan, the “Queen of Funk” and 10-time Grammy award winner, will sing at Natalie Cole’s funeral. Cole will be laid to rest on Monday, January 11. The service will be held at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, which the singer attended for many years.
Natalie, who suffered from a rare lung disease and other health issues, passed away on December 31.
— ABC 7 Chicago (@ABC7Chicago) January 10, 2016
Khan was saddened by her friend’s passing and was one of the first to offer condolences as she and Cole were close friends, noted USA Today.
— Chaka Khan (@ChakaKhan) January 1, 2016
Chaka Khan, much like Natalie Cole, is a singer the industry tried hard to fit into a specific genre, but because of her versatility could not be limited. Many know her as the “Queen of Funk,” but she is a singer’s singer who makes every song she sings her own. Khan can also deliver a song emotively in whichever genre she chooses, including jazz, pop, R&B, and gospel.
When Natalie Cole burst upon the music scene in 1975, she, like Chaka Khan, was often compared to Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul” who influenced both of them. But Cole also floated easily among genres.
A recording of Chaka Khan singing the jazz standard “You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)” with her late friend is one of the rare times when the two performed together.
What many don’t know about Chaka Khan is that she accepts the “Queen of Funk” title graciously, but demonstrates boundless abilities. Jazz is her first love, because it is the music, along with classical, that she heard most during her childhood.
Her favorite songwriter is Joni Mitchell and Khan is now working on a Joni tribute album, per the Washington Post. She and Mitchell are good friends, and as Khan works on the album, she sends tunes to Joni. Chaka’s overjoyed to know that what she’s done thus far meets with Joni’s approval.
Khan is well-respected in the music industry, and at the age of 62 performs regularly at jazz venues. She recently appeared on Dancing with the Stars, along with partner Keo Motsepe, but the couple was the first to be eliminated. She chalked it up to a mistake and returned to her first love–music.
“I have my regrets and most of them are private, ones that happened behind the scenes, because it was worse behind the scenes than in front of the camera. I was calling it ‘Dancing Behind Bars.’ So it’s pretty tough and it seemed like it would never end.”
Later, Chaka learned she would have to return to DWTS for a finale. She said she couldn’t do it and was allowed to sing and that settled the contract score. Since then, she has said she won’t be dancing–except when she performs her own music. Another never for her is reality TV.
Chaka started singing with her sister Taka Boom in a girl group, the Crystalettes, in their hometown of Chicago. She went on to sing with the Rufus band, which soon became Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. Their first major hit, circa 1974, was “Tell Me Something Good,” penned by Stevie Wonder.
In 1978, Chaka Khan went solo with the Chaka album, featuring the cross-over hit “I’m Every Woman,” with background vocals by the late Whitney Houston who later recorded the song herself. Khan has made many albums and garnered much success since then. Her last album Funk This, recorded in 2008, won the Best R&B album Grammy. But she’s not done and expects to release the Joni Mitchell tribute album in February. Chaka said people often ask if she’s on tour, and she responds that her life, itself, is a tour.
[Photo via Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty]