Chaka Khan (born Yvette Marie Stevens, March 23, 1953) is an American singer-songwriter whose career has spanned four decades, beginning in the 1970s as the frontwoman and focal point of the funk band Rufus. Often dubbed the “Queen of Funk”, Khan has won ten Grammys and has sold an estimated 70 million records worldwide.
Chaka Khan was born Yvette Marie Stevens on March 23, 1953 into an artistic, bohemian household in Chicago, Illinois. She was the eldest of five children to Charles Stevens and Sandra Coleman, and has described her father Charles as a beatnik and her mother as ‘able to do anything’. Raised in the Hyde Park area, ‘an island in the middle of the madness’ of Chicago’s rough South Side housing projects. Her sister Yvonne later became a successful musician in her own right under the name Taka Boom. Her only brother, Mark, who formed the funk group Aurra, also became a successful musician. She has two other sisters, Zaheva Stevens and Tammy McCrary, the latter of whom is her current manager.
Chaka Khan was raised as a Catholic. She attributed her love of music to her grandmother, who introduced her to jazz as a child. Khan became a fan of rhythm and blues music as a pre-teen and at eleven formed her first all-female singing group the Crystalettes, which included her sister Taka. In the late 1960s, Khan attended several civil rights rallies with her father’s second wife, Connie, a strong supporter of the movement, and joined the Black Panther Party after befriending fellow member, activist and Chicago native Fred Hampton in 1967.