Chaka Khan, a 10-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter who has released 22 albums and 10 No. 1 Billboard charted songs over a 45-year career, will make history on New Year’s Day as grand marshal of the 130th Rose Parade.
First, she will be the first African-American female entertainer to serve as grand marshal in the parade, this year themed “The Melody of Life.”
Second, Khan will be the first grand marshal in memory to open the parade with a performance, one in which she will be joined by her grandsons, Jett and Josh Khan-Corley, and her nephew, Tyler McCrary.
“It wasn’t going to happen unless it was a family affair,” Khan said during a recent interview with the Pasadena Weekly at Tournament House on South Orange Grove Boulevard. Khan was chosen as grand marshal by Gerald Freeny, the organization’s first African-American president, who also selected this year’s theme.
“I am bringing in my two grandsons who are musical geniuses, 8 and 5,” Khan added proudly. “They were born to perform. They are beautiful, like all children are.”
Although she has had a remarkable solo career for more than 30 years, Khan is also well known for her work fronting for the band Rufus, beginning in 1973. Some of the songs that Khan and Rufus are perhaps most famous for include Grammy-winning “Tell Me Something Good,” the band’s breakthrough hit, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1974. It was on this song that Stevie Wonder collaborated with Khan and the band to help launch their careers. Other major hit songs with Rufus include, “You Got the Love,” “Once You Get Started,” “Sweet Thing,” “Hollywood,” “At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up),” and “Do You Love What You Feel?”
Khan has perhaps become best known for such megahits as “I’m Every Woman,” “I’ll Be Good To You” and “I Feel For You,” which was written by and first performed by Prince.
In 2008 Khan won Grammys for best R&B album for “Funk This” and for her collaboration with Mary J. Blige on “Disrespectful.”
The Chicago native credits her grandmother with instilling in her a love of music, and Khan can sing in seven musical genres: R&B, pop, rock, gospel, country, world music and classical.
Her musical influences include Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Frank Sinatra and Doris Day.
“The changes in the music business are obvious,” she told the Pasadena Weekly. “We have gone from analogue to full on digital. I’m still analogue in my spirit and head. I look for the warm sounds. I work with people who mix the two. Analogue and digital, in a good way. People tend to think this is a competitive business. It’s self-expression. There is no competition in self-expression.”
What many may not know about is Khan’s charitable and entrepreneurial sides.
In 1999, Khan established the Chaka Khan Foundation, which, according to the organization’s literature “inspires, educates and empowers children to achieve their full potential.” Through the Chaka Believes Program, the foundation gives children in Los Angeles who are at risk, either because of poverty or health issues such as autism, the ability to achieve their dreams and give back to the community.
Khan’s business ventures include a line of hair and makeup products, a collection of purses and hand bags, and Chaka Khandoms, a brand of condoms.
Her next CD, which is still untitled, will drop sometime in January. She is also in the development stages of a biography of herself, which she says is “closer to a documentary than a bio-pic.”
The lineup for the Rose Parade performance also includes, “Dancing with the Stars” winner Jordan Fisher, the HTEDance & Spirit Group, the Kaiser Catamount Pride Band & Color Guard of Fontana, Boys of Temecula/Temecula Dance Company and Pasadena’s own Wilson Middle School Drum Corps.
Tournament of Roses CEO David Eads said in a statement that the Tournament is thrilled to have such a great lineup in the opening performance.
“The opening show isn’t a new addition, but it has evolved over the years, and this year, it’s even better,” Eads said. “Grand marshals have appeared in opening shows in the past, but this may be the first time a grand marshal has performed in an opening show.”
Khan said she is likewise thrilled to be performing in the parade.
“I’m being exposed to a new generation by being the grand marshal” she said. “I love Old Pasadena. I’ve visited often, and at one point I did once consider living here.”