Chaka Khan

In the late '80s, fiery R&B siren Chaka Khan seemed far removed from her hitmaking

years as a solo act and as a member of the '70s band Rufus. The diminutive singer

hadn't had a big hit since her cover of Prince's "I Feel For You" in 1984, and was keeping

a low profile on the music scene.

But a few years ago, Khan teamed up again with Prince, now known as The Artist. She

now records for his NPG Records, and some of her work is produced by the Minneapolis-

based funk master.

Khan was born Yvette Marie Stevens 46 years ago today in Great Lakes, Ill. She was

raised on Chicago's South Side and formed her first band when she was 11. The group,

named the Crystalettes, gigged around Chicago.

Khan also had a political side to her personality. She became president of the Black

Students Union at school and was also a member of the Afro-Arts Theater, which toured

with the late legendary Motown singer Mary Wells.

Later, Khan became affiliated with the Black Panthers and took the African name Chaka,

meaning fire. She eventually quit school to sing in the band Lyfe, later called the

Babysitters, which specialized in dance music.

In 1972, Khan formed the soul band Rufus with Andre Fisher and former American Breed

member Kevin Murphy. Rufus made a name for themselves on the R&B and pop charts

with such singles as the top-10 smash "Tell Me Something Good." The band

accumulated six hit LPs before Khan left in 1978.

Khan, a big Joni Mitchell fan, sang on the latter's 1977 LP, Don Juan's Reckless

Daughter. Her first solo effort, 1978's gold-selling Chaka, featured the

Average White Band and the hit "I'm Every Woman," later a smash for Whitney Houston.

The following year, Khan sang backup on Ry Cooder's Bop Till You Drop..

In 1982, Khan recorded a jazz LP, Echoes of an Era. During the next year, she

again teamed with Rufus to issue Live -- Stompin' at the Savoy.

Khan was back near the top of the pop-singles chart in 1984 with the #3

HREF="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-music/Khan,_Chaka/I_Feel_For_You.ram">"I

Feel For You" (RealAudio excerpt), which featured Melle Mel of Grandmaster

Flash and the Furious Five turntable-scratching and rapping her name. The track, which

also included Stevie Wonder on harmonica, won a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B

Vocal.

After her next few records stiffed, Khan moved to Europe. She sang and appeared in the

video to the Steve Winwood hit "Higher Love." In 1992, Khan resurfaced with The

Woman I Am, which wasn't a big seller.

Recently, Khan began performing at shows by The Artist; last year, NPG released her

Come 2 My House, featuring The Artist and another of his musical associates,

Larry Graham, a former member of Sly & the Family Stone and Graham Central Station.

Other birthdays: Ric Ocasek, 50; Marti Pellow (Wet Wet Wet), 33; and Damon Albarn

(Blur), 31.