Chaka Khan began her career in the 1970s as the lead vocalist of the funk band Rufus. In 1978, she released her first solo album, the platinum-selling Chaka. Since then, she’s become one of the most successful dance artists of all time, selling over 70 million records worldwide, winning ten Grammy Awards, and releasing a string of hit singles. Here, we take a look back at the Queen of Funk’s career with our pick of the 10 best Chaka Khan songs of all time.
“Painted faces, sunburnt skin, fixed expressions, smiles worn thin… Everybody makes believe in Hollywood,” sings Khan on Hollywood. Written by David ‘Hawk’ Wolinski and Andre Fischer, the song combines expert musicality with a big enough disco groove to get everyone on their feet. Released in 1977, it reached No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart.
9. I’ll Be Good To You
In 1976, R&B duo the Brothers Johnson shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Singles Chart with the Qunicy Jones produced song, I’ll Be Good To You. Thirteen years later, Chaka Khan and Ray Charles took it back to No.1 with their Grammy Award-winning version. It was Charles’ first No. 1 R&B hit in twenty-four years, and a major career boost for Khan.
8. Like Sugar
After an almost 11 year hiatus, Khan returned to the charts in 2019 with Like Sugar. On the surface, it’s a simple enough song built around a single bassline and with each verse serving as a repeat of the last. It might not sound like the makings of a major hit, but despite the simple premise, every single element has been worked to perfection, with enough drum fills, sequences, and pauses to keep the listener on their toes. Over 40 years after her first debut single, Khan proved she could still fill a dancefloor like no one else.
7. Do You Love What You Feel
In 1979, Chaka Khan spent three weeks at the top of the Hot Soul Singles chart with the Qunicy Jones-produced dance classic, Do You Love What You Feel. It also boogied its way to number five on the disco charts and No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. An oldie but a goldie, Khan’s immense performance still vibrates with as much energy today as it did 40 plus years ago.
6. I Know You, I Live You
Described by dummymag.com as “as perfect as a dance record can get,” I Know You, I Live You didn’t get a lot of attention when it was first released on the 1981 album What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me, but it quickly got picked up by the dance community. Today, it’s an enduring dance classic, with a stunningly nuanced performance from Khan and an irresistible disco beat.
5. Tell Me Something Good
Named as one of the best Chaka Khan songs of all time by live365.com, Tell Me Something Good could have been a huge hit for its writer Stevie Wonder, but instead, he chose to give it away to Rufus and Chaka Khan, who scored a major hit with it in June 1974. After soaring to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Cash Box Top 100, it won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus at the 17th Annual Grammy Awards in 1975.
4. Ain’t Nobody
A slow-building classic, Ain’t Nobody has it all – a complex melody, a soulful vocal performance, nuanced lyrics, and enough energy to get a party started. Released on November 4, 1983, it was a smash hit, reaching No. 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s since become one of Khan’s signature songs, and this year, was named as one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
3. What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me
As returnofrock.com says, Khan’s 1991 album What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me mixes funk, R&B, and jazz in a way that highlights Khan’s eclectic style, as well as her incredible vocal ability. Nowhere is that more obvious than on its title track, a fabulous piece of boogie that’s almost impossible not to get up and dance to. Released in May 1981, it spent two weeks at the top of the R&B chart and reached No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100 – her second song to ever make the chart.
2. I Feel For You
Named as one of Chaka Khan’s biggest hits by liveabout.com, I Feel For You was originally recorded by Prince for his self titled album from 1979. When Khan re-recorded it in 1984, she bought out the big guns, with Stevie Wonder on harmonica and Grandmaster Melle Mel providing the rap. It was a major hit, selling over a million copies in the US and UK and reigniting interest in Khan’s solo career. After hitting No. 1 on the Cash Box singles chart and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it ended up winning both Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song at the 27th Annual Grammy Awards.
1. I’m Every Woman
After six years with Rufus, Khan kickstarted her solo career with I’m Every Woman. Written by legendary writing duo Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson and produced by Arif Mardin, it couldn’t fail – and it certainly didn’t do that. Released as the first single from her debut solo album Chaka in September 1978, it soared to No.1 on the Hot Soul Singles Chart and No. 3 on the disco chart. In 1992, Whitney Houston bought the song back to the charts with her version, which peaked at No. 4 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. A karaoke classic, it remains one of Khan’s most popular and well-known songs to this day.