Chaka Khan blooms again

Singer set to re­lease new al­bum after 12-year hia­tus


PASADENA, Calif. — If Chaka Khan were a flower, she’d be a peren­nial.

“Be­cause I go dor­mant and then I ...” Khan stops and grace­fully lifts her arms to­gether, then slowly brings her hands apart, like a tulip emerg­ing in spring.

“I’ve done it many, many times,” ex­plained the singer, per­haps best known for her mul­ti­mil­lion sell­ing 1984 cover of Prince’s I Feel For You.

On the brink of her first new al­bum in a decade, and, on New Year’s Day hav­ing served as grand mar­shal at the Rose Pa­rade, Chaka Khan is in bloom again.

After re­ceiv­ing the call from the Pasadena Tour­na­ment of Roses As­so­ci­a­tion, the term “grand mar­shal” had the 65-year-old Khan’s mind run­ning wild.

“I’ll tell you what I vi­su­al­ized,” Khan said. “I imag­ined my­self with a ba­ton, march­ing in the front. ‘I’m lead­ing the whole pa­rade.’ That’s what I thought.” Not even close. In­stead, Khan was seated on a comfy bench in the back­seat of a clas­sic con­vert­ible, which slowly made its way past the thou­sands along the nine-kilo­me­tre pa­rade route. (Mil­lions more will have watched on TV.)

“This is all new for me,” the 65-year-old Khan said. “I love chal­lenges. And I love new stuff.”

Khan opened pa­rade fes­tiv­i­ties with a per­for­mance. Publi­cists were un­able to con­firm whether the grand mar­shal-per­former dou­ble duty is a Rose Pa­rade first, but they did note it was the first time in re­cent mem­ory. Khan sang two songs: I Feel for You, as well as Hello Hap­pi­ness, the se­cond sin­gle from the new al­bum.

The new song is not a po­lit­i­cal state­ment — un­less you want it to be. “I think we need a shot of just not tak­ing the lit­tle things so se­ri­ously,” Khan said of the lyrics. “Lit­tle things are im­por­tant. It’s about the lit­tle things, but just flow.”

The new al­bum, ex­pected by the end of 2019, is her first since the well-re­ceived 2007 Funk This.

So, why take such a long break be­tween the two re­leases?

Khan said she never stopped record­ing from 2008 to 2018 — she sim­ply stopped re­leas­ing ma­te­rial. She also took care of her­self phys­i­cally and made up for all those lonely years on the road by spend­ing time with fam­ily and friends.

She also needed time to pull her­self to­gether after the April 2016 pass­ing of old friend Prince, who died of a drug over­dose. About six months later, Khan en­tered re­hab to deal with her own pre­scrip­tion­drug ad­dic­tion.

“You cover up and re­think your whole life,” said Khan, born Yvette Marie Stevens. “You’ve got to re­think your­self.”

At last, for Khan, it is time to bloom again. And this pa­rade, with its roses in win­ter, seemed the per­fect place for a peren­nial to make her re­turn.

Khan even had her re­gal wave ready the masses.

“It’s just that,” she said, rais­ing her arm, cup­ping her hand and mov­ing it back and forth ever so slightly. “You use as lit­tle en­ergy as nec­es­sary. You know, the Queen is very stingy with her en­ergy.”

Singer Chaka Khan.

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