Chaka Khan is my favorite female singer. The perfect balance of skill and soul. She’s capable of singing such a broad breadth of genres-straight ahead pop, funk, rock, jazz. She’d probably sing the shit out of a blues record (and there were songs on those first few Rufus albums that veered in that direction.) Her versatility has extended to a lengthy list of disparate collaborators: Stephen Bishop, Prince, Joni Mitchell, Michael McDonald, Robert Palmer, De La Soul, Guru, Brandy and Meshell Ndegeocello have all benefited from associations with the Chicago-bred vocalist. She’s a talented songwriter and a master interpreter. The songs below come from songwriters as varied as Christine McVie, Carole Bayer Sager, Stevie Wonder and Brenda Russell.) Chaka is also blessed with a super unique syntax-the way she bends words while singing is unparalleled. No one sounds like her, although there are many who have been influenced (with Rahsaan Patterson and Mary J. Blige being Chaka’s chief acolytes.)

Here are my twenty favorite tracks of hers. All Rufus or solo stuff—no collaborations, and nothing from Come 2 My House, the Prince-helmed album which happens to be the only Chaka album not available for streaming (I would’ve included them, however, if they’d made the final cut…the playlists are an addendum to my rankings and not the other way around).

Also, no “I Feel For You”, as I’ve never been incredibly crazy about that song, and incessant overplaying has rendered it almost unplayable in my personal library. If I never hear Melle Mel mumbling “Chakakhan, Chakakhan” again, I’d be totally cool with that.

Sweet Thing* (from Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, 1975)
Ain’t Nobody* (from Live! Stompin’ At The Savoy, 1983)
Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me Of A Friend)* (from Rufusized, 1974)
I’m Every Woman (from Chaka, 1978)
Stay* (from Street Player, 1978)
Do You Love What You Feel* (from Masterjam, 1979)
Love Me Still (from Clockers…Music From The Motion Picture, 1995)
Tell Me Something Good* (from Rags To Rufus, 1974)
What’cha Gonna Do For Me? (from What’cha Gonna Do For Me?, 1981)
Fate (from What’cha Gonna Do For Me?)
You Can Make The Story Right (from The Woman I Am, 1992)
Hollywood (from Ask Rufus, 1977)
Everywhere (from Epiphany-The Best Of Chaka Khan, 1996)
Stronger Than Before (from I Feel For You, 1984)
Papillon (Hot Butterfly) (from Naughty, 1980)
Don’t Look At Me That Way (from The Woman I Am)
I Know You, I Live You (from What’cha Gonna Do For Me?)
Love You All My Lifetime (from The Woman I Am)
Through The Fire (from I Feel For You)
Will You Love Me (from Funk This, 2007)

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