President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my first or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.
Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": Chaka Khan has a powerhouse voice and personality, too. Her birth name was Yvette Marie Stevens, but according to Billboard.com, "she adopted the African name Chaka Khan while working on the Black Panthers' breakfast program." That in itself shows she was going against the norm and trying to distinguish herself from the rest. And that she did with big hair, a bigger voice and a huge smile all while she dipped into R&B, hip-hop and pop. The Grammy-winning singer had a hit on her hands a decade before Whitney Houston remade "I'm Every Woman," complete with random ad libs chanting "Chaka" to add some funk to it. What she "got will knock your pride aside."
First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: I watched the 1984 film "Breakin'" so much that I wore the tape out and had to get another copy. I remember Kelly (played by Lucinda Dickey) trying to prove to Ozone (played by Adolfo Quinones) and Turbo (played by Boogaloo Shrimp) that she could be part of their crew. By the end of the song, Ozone and Turbo made her a far better breaker, and it was all to the tune of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody." That was my introduction to Chaka Khan, and every single time that song came on, I'd try to reenact scenes from my favorite hip-hop film.
"Tell Me Something Good" was my favorite song by her though. Watching Maxine (played by Erika Alexander) and Kyle (played by Terrence "T.C." Carson) during one of the juiciest episodes of "Living Single" made the single that much better.
Accomplishments from the Artist: Chaka Khan won Grammys in 1984 for "I Feel for You," in 1990 for "I'll Be Good to You" and in 2004 for remaking Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" with the Funk Brothers in Standing in the Shadows of Motown. "I Feel for You" spent 26 weeks on the charts along with "Love of a Lifetime" (12 weeks), "Own the Night" and "This Is My Night" (9 weeks for both), "Through the Fire" (19 weeks) and "Love You All My Lifetime" (10 weeks). Pop artists like Prince, who doesn't work with just anybody, made hit music with her. And hip-hop showed love to her again — outside of working with Melle Mel on "I Feel for You" — on 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" soundtrack and movie.
* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.
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