Chaka Khan performs on day three of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park in Chicago on July 22, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

As Rose Parade grand marshal, Chaka Khan takes a step forward in her comeback

SHARE As Rose Parade grand marshal, Chaka Khan takes a step forward in her comeback
SHARE As Rose Parade grand marshal, Chaka Khan takes a step forward in her comeback

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, serving 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 Chicago native’s mind running wild.

“I’ll tell you what I visualized,” Khan recalled. “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 will be seated on a comfy bench in the back seat of a classic convertible, which will slowly make its way past the thousands along the 5.5-mile parade route. (The parade will also be seen by millions more on TV.)

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

Khan will also open 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 said she would sing 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 “Happiness” 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 2008-2018, 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 prescription-drug addiction.

“You cover up and rethink your whole life,” Khan commented. “You’ve got to rethink yourself.”

At last, for Khan, it is time to bloom again. In July, she performed at the Pitchfork Music Festival among the greenery of Chicago’s Union Park. And this parade, with its roses in winter, seems the perfect place for a perennial to continue her return.

Khan even has 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.”

The Latest
A manager of the building where three women died during a stretch of warm temperatures said city rules required them to provide heat through June 1. “Nobody is going to freeze to death in Chicago in May,” said Ald. Brian Hopkins, who introduced an ordinance to ease that requirement.
Kadri has been the subject of racist social media posts since he was involved in a collision that knocked Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington out for the rest of the teams’ playoff series.
By focusing on the more mundane and also bringing a broader historical perspective, playwright August Wilson captured how the hope of the young was met by the weariness of those who had seen it all before.
Foles will back up veteran Matt Ryan, who was acquired in a trade with the Falcons for a third-round draft pick. Foles, the MVP of Super Bowl LII in 2018, spent two seasons with the Bears, starting seven games in 2020.