Chaka Khan, 'rarin' to go' at Dell concert

"Essence of Entertainment" indeed: Khan launches the summer series at the Dell Thursday. "I can sing anything," she says. "I could do anything, I think."
"Essence of Entertainment" indeed: Khan launches the summer series at the Dell Thursday. "I can sing anything," she says. "I could do anything, I think."
Posted: July 12, 2013

Chaka Khan has won 11 Grammys and has, for the last 40 years, been a presence on the American music scene. At 60, she prides herself on being able to sing pop, dance, R&B, funk, soul, jazz, gospel, classical, and country.

But what about Bollywood? A few years ago, the promoters of an Indian-themed show in Central Jersey listed on a handbill the array of performers scheduled to appear at a live event at a theater in Middlesex County. Among other Bollywood movie singers was one Chaka Khan.

Alas, it was not the Chaka Khan who played the show. But Khan, laughing at the story ("Oh my God, are you kidding me? I'm going to look it up right away. Unbelievable"), said she could probably have pulled it off.

"I can sing anything," she said proudly this week from her home in Los Angeles. "I could do anything, I think. I've done everything except for Chinese folk music, and if I could find the right song, I'd do it. I love many genres of music."

Khan is the first attraction in this year's "Essence of Entertainment" series at the Dell. She kicks off this year's Thursday night summer concert series tomorrow. Fantasia and the Whispers follow this month, as well as Jeffrey Osborne, Dave Koz, and Cameo, among others, in August. (For more information, go to or call 215-683-3675.)

There are no secrets with Chaka Khan. She turned 60 this year and was honored when a street near her high school was named for her in her native Chicago. "I've arriven, arrived," she said, laughing. "If you have a street named after you in Chicago, it's a very big honor."

She was also honored at the Howard Theatre in Washington and New York's Apollo, not just for her musical achievements but also for her charitable work through the Chaka Khan Foundation.

Khan last appeared in Philadelphia at the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival in 2011. "There are a lot of similarities with Chicago," she said. "It's an amazing city, Philadelphia, a place where there are a lot of hidden treasures. And the people make a place for me, and Philly has a lot of lovely people. In fact, my daughter's father is from Philadelphia."

Khan will be performing a retrospective of her career from her days with Rufus in the 1970s through today. "I'm bringing top-notch musicians with me, and everything we do will be amazing," she said.

Recently the grandmother of three had to cancel a month's worth of shows on medical advice, but she says she has recovered nicely: "I just needed a bit of a vocal rest. I'd been doing a lot of stuff . . . and I was just a bit run-down. So, the doctor told me to chill, and I did. It was great. Now I'm back, rarin' to go again."

One of the shows she missed was a 70th-birthday tribute to Joni Mitchell in Toronto last month. Khan has been a fan of Mitchell's voice and talents for decades, and it was painful for her to miss the tribute. "I might have done 'Refuge of the Roads,' or 'Coyote' . . . I just love Joni Mitchell. I know all of her songs. I just think she is one of the most incredible writers and musicians."

Her new record, The iKhan Project, will be released and distributed by Khan herself. Her single from the record, "It's Not Over," is currently No. 9 on Billboard's dance chart.

Khan has, among other guests, Eric Clapton and Sheila E. The latter, she said, "is all over this record.

"Everybody will be happy," says Chaka Khan. "Hopefully they will hear a song or two that they are in love with."

Chaka Khan, with Ledisi

7 p.m. Thursday at the Dell. Tickets: $25-$60. Information: 215-683-3675 orĀ

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