Updated 06/17/2012 05:50 PM
Soul's Survivors: Chaka Khan Revamps Image, Stays Politically Active
Chaka Khan has been hitting the high notes for more than four decades.
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Recently, she's been back in the headlines for her activism and her drastic weight loss. NY1's Dean Memimger filed the following report as part of his Soul's Survivors series.
In the 1970s and '80s, Chaka Khan was burning up the record charts with her powerful voice and fiery looks. In 1984, everyone was singing her name or, should we say, rapping it.
More than 40 years after signing her first recording contract along with the band Rufus, Chaka can still take control of the stage. Many fans are still calling her a sexy songstress, as they did at the Apollo Theater in Harlem recently.
"Some of it is embarrassing, I am going to tell you," she says. "I'm standing on the side of the stage and five or six guys whispered things, came by and said inappropriate things to me when I went on stage.”
She says it is all very flattering. She has to be used to it. Her first big hit was "Tell Me Something Good."
Nowadays, there's a lot less of Chaka to like. Over the years she gained weight and it took a toll her health. Recently, she lost around 60 pounds.
"It is a part of my journey," she says. "I had type 2 diabetes and I had high blood pressure. I said 'Oh, that is crazy.' It was all because I am emotional. I am an artist. I was giving into the emotional part of me and letting that override who I really am."
Losing weight wasn't just about her career. It was also about her family.
“I adopted my granddaughter who is 10," she says. "That was the big wake up call. I said 'OK, I got to get it together. I got to stay here a while because I got a little girl to raise.'”
She's also helping others in need. The Chaka Khan Foundation mentors children and women.
Chaka has been an activist since her teen years in Chicago. When Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Florida, she released a video called "Super Life: Fear Kills, Love Heals."
Chaka, who's won 10 Grammy awards, says she's back in the studio and looking to make more hits.
“I have been at this a long long time and I ain’t no where’s near finished," she says. "I got a long way to go. "