From the November, 1979 issue of High Times comes a Q&A with none other than Chaka Khan. In honor of Chaka Khan’s birthday March 23, we’re republishing Liz Derringer’s conversation with the living legend below.
With Rufus she was the queen of female funk rock. Now with and without Rufus she’s expanded her range, from disco to ballads and back to funky rock, and continues to top the charts while raising a family.
Your latest solo album has been a huge success. Was it difficult doing it without Rufus behind you?
The road is the road. It’s always hard after long periods of time. It’s a real essential part of the business. You have to do it.
Do you have problems with men pressuring you because you’re a woman and a so-called sex symbol?
It happens, but it doesn’t bother me.
How do you react?
I’m usually just very cold, you have to be. You just don’t make yourself available.
Do you think it’s much different far a woman on the road than it is for a man?
It’s just like comparing it with a man and woman working a 9-to-5. There’s not much difference there unless you have kids.
Do you think men are chauvinistic toward women in your position?
Well, not so much anymore. It depends on the girl. It really does.
You’re pretty tough, right?
I just don’t take any of that stuff.
What has to be in a song for you to want to record it?
Anything but love or the blues. It’s been done too much, it’s boring.
Anything in particular you like to sing about?
Anything with intelligent lyrics. I like to sing about something that makes sense, good melodies.
Who are your favorite singers?
Oh, I like so many. Ella Fitzgerald is my favorite.
You once told me you wished you had known Jimi Hendrix. What were your reasons?
Doesn’t everybody want to know Jimi Hendrix? Come on. If I had known him I could have helped him, and maybe all that crap wouldn’t have happened. But who’s to say, because that happened at a real weird time. He was quite a revolutionary fellow.
Do you find it hard having to travel around while your husband’s at home?
That is hard.
How do you handle it?
The one salvation is having other people out with me. That’s one way, and when there’s no one around I just look at TV. But it’s a real lonely profession. Sometimes my husband will travel with me for short periods of time or if I do TV shows.
Do you deal with business matters much?
Just enough to know what’s happening to me and my money. I have a real interested husband, he checks it all out for me.
You’re lucky to have a conscientious husband. Other women I’ve talked to don’t have it so easy. The only time they get to be with men is when they’re on the road.
I was almost like that at one time, but I was a lot younger, too. But no thank you. I function much better with this ring on my finger.
Do you believe that there are certain qualities in a woman that enable them to be successful?
Yeah—tits and ass! That’s the obvious reason. I don’t know—just the fact that they’re female and the Western world places such a big emphasis on sexuality. That’s one advantage. This society is geared toward worshiping the female bod.
Does that bother you?
Not necessarily. It’s not such a terrible place to be in.
As long as women and men receive equal pay.
Where do you think music is heading?
I think the quality of music today is much better than it’s ever been. You really don’t hear any bad stuff. I think people are a lot more musically educated and have a lot more musical pride than ever before. We’ve reached a real level of sophistication. It’s definitely getting better.