For today’s Rare Cut here on TFSR we’re celebrating the birthday of one of the greats, the incredible Chaka Khan! Over the course of her career as vocalist with the band Rufus to her hit solo career, Khan has demonstrated time and again that she is one of the finest singers in the world.
In 1978 Khan was still part of Rufus (indeed, it would be five years until the band had their final triumph with the classic ‘Ain’t Nobody) when she released her debut solo album entitled Chaka. The lead single ‘I’m Every Woman’, written by Ashford & Simpson, has become her best known hit, covered by numerous artists including most famously the late Whitney Houston. The rest of the album, whilst enjoyable, fails largely to reach the heights of the first single: ‘Life is a Dance’ is a disco floor-filler, yet the cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Was Made To Love Him’ falls a little flat. Interestingly, a then-unknown backing singer by the name of Luther Vandross sings the background vocals on ‘Roll Me Through the Rushes’. One of the most peculiar and interesting cuts off the album however is the duet between Khan and George Benson, who himself was making the switch from jazz to smooth jazz, soul and pop.
The song itself is written by Benson, which in itself is highly unusual as, no disrespect to the guitarist, Benson’s hits are nearly almost always produced and written by others. That said the song isn’t bad. Certainly, it’s no ‘I’m Every Woman’, but then what is? Benson’s trademark vocal riffs open up the song demonstrating once again that he is more than just a guitar player. Khan sultry, seductive vocals contrast nicely with Benson’s smooth vocals. Sadly, Benson does not play his guitar on the track which could have bolstered the overall sound, but nonetheless it’s an interesting song that is worth revisiting particularly today, when we say happy birthday to a musical icon.