The nonprofit radio station is licensed to Clark Atlanta University and was founded in 1974. Wendy Williams, WCLK’s general manager, has been at the station 18 years.
She said the annual concert is the station’s biggest event of the year. Artists such as Nancy Wilson and Take 6 have headlined the benefit show in the past, and Khan was selected for the honor this year.
“We wanted to appeal to all the people who have been listening to the radio station for the past 38 years,” Wiliams said. “Chaka has an extensive jazz repertoire.”
According to the artist’s website, www.chakakhan.com, she was born Yvette Marie Stevens in Chicago in 1953. She was given the first part of her more common moniker in 1963 by an African priest. In 1971, she joined the singing group Rufus and officially took the name Chaka Khan after marrying her boyfriend, Hassan Khan.
The group gained success with gold and platinum albums, and Chaka Khan ventured on a solo career in 1978. She continued to record with the group, and they released their last project, “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” in 1983. Today, Chaka Khan continues to entertain audiences across the globe with her music. She has also graced the Broadway stage in shows such as “The Color Purple.”
In an interview with the radio station, Khan said she was born and raised with jazz music. “Hyde Park was a very cultural center in Chicago. A lot of great jazz comes out of Chicago. I was born and raised on jazz. That is my fundamental music.”
For the show at the Energy Centre, she said the audience should expect “a wide repertoire and a lot of funk. It will be a jolly good show. Everyone will be happy.” She said she will perform her classics, such as “Through The Fire” and “Ain’t Nobody,” as well as songs from her days with Rufus.
Khan cites artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and Billie Holiday among her musical influences. She also had an influence on the late Whitney Houston who covered “I’m Every Woman” for the 1993 “The Bodyguard” soundtrack. Khan originally recorded this song in 1978.
Houston’s mother, Cissy, sang backup for Khan and brought her daughter to the studio when she was 14. Khan was around 20 at the time.
“Whitney was like a little sister to me,” Khan said. “I loved her very much. She’s truly missed by me, but I know she’s in a good place right now. She’s doing, right now, her true spiritual walk.”
Khan said singing saves her and keeps her focused: “Singing. That’s my therapy. That’s how I cope and let it all out.”
In addition to the annual concert, the station also partners with other venues and organizations around Atlanta, such as the High Museum of Art, Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park for concerts, fundraisers, award ceremonies and more. The station also lauched its spring membership drive, which ends April 1.
“We’ve stood the test of time,” Williams said. “We’re doing things the way we’ve always done them. We want people to support jazz and understand its legacy.”
The jazz artist Najee will be the opening act. He has also performed with Chaka Khan in the past.
The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre is located at 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway.
For more information on the concert and to purchase tickets, visit www.wclk.com, www.ticketmaster.com or www.cobbenergycentre.com.