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by Lesley Gwam
Until 1978, Chaka Khan was known as the powerhouse lead singer of Chicago funk band, Rufus. That changed, however, with the release of Chaka Khan’s eponymous debut solo album, which featured “I’m Every Woman” as its lead single.
Written by Ashford and Simpson of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” fame, “I’m Every Woman” begins with a riveting string arrangement accompanied by a funky bassline that immediately captivates the ear. Chaka’s powerful vocals and harmonies demonstrate the confidence that came to dominate her illustrious solo career; most noticeably at the bridge of the song, where Khan showcases the breadth of her vocal abilities.
Whitney Houston’s cover came over a decade later, as part of the soundtrack for Whitney’s 1992 acting debut, The Bodyguard. While “I Will Always Love You” is the undoubted star single from that soundtrack (and also a cover: I’m sure Dolly Parton is somewhere bathing in publishing checks), “I’m Every Woman” trailed not too far behind, featuring a star-studded music video featuring members of TLC and Chaka Khan herself (another fun fact: Whitney’s mother, Cissy Houston, sang backup on the 1978 original).
While the original exudes an undeniable funk groove, the upbeat 1992 version is also a clear product of its time, as its 90s dance feel is everything Jazzercise classes were made of. Other than her unmatched enunciation (seriously, you can hear the beginning and end of each consonant and vowel it they left Whitney’s lips) and the use of a choir as backing vocalists, Whitney did not stray too much from Chaka’s original vocal arrangement, providing vocals just as impactful as the original. In fact, my favorite part of the remake is Whitney’s literal shout out to Chaka Khan (“CHAKA KHAN!”) as the song comes to a close.
In the age of #MeToo and National Women’s Marches, there is more than enough room for the equally empowering versions “I’m Every Woman” at your next party, family BBQ, or to sing along to by your lonesome in the shower (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything….!).
[Editor's Note: Chaka Khan will be performing at the 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival! Join us on July 20-22 for three days of fantastic music and the summer edition of CHIRP's Record Fair and Other Delights!]
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