Chaka Khan Shares Her Key Life Lessons Ahead of 70th Birthday: 'It's Bigger Than You'

The Queen of Funk encourages younger generations to follow their "calling" — and if not, "the post office is always hiring"

Chaka Khan
Photo: Johnny Louis/Getty Images

She may be Every Woman, but Chaka Khan has advice for others looking to follow in her legendary footsteps.

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight published Wednesday, the 10-time Grammy-winner dished the words of wisdom she shares with aspiring singers.

"I keep telling these kids, they want to know what should they do if they have a calling or a dream," Khan said. "The thing is, if you have a calling or a dream, you're either going to realize it or you're going to crash and burn; kill yourself or kill somebody else or something, you know? You're gonna have to do it, it has to be done. Or you have to pick something else. Because the calling is just the calling. It's that simple. It's bigger than you. So, you have to do it. And if you don't, the post office is always hiring."

With the Queen of Funk turning 70 on March 23, she also reflected on her own accomplishments across multiple music genres. "I've done everything but kick myself in the back of the head," said Kahn. "The only thing left to do, I mean, really, I feel like I've done a great deal. I'm wondering, you know, what's next [laughs]?"

The "I Feel for You" singer said, however, she'd "rather not be boxed into one aspect of music."

That sentiment also extends to her perspective on other young artists — and the influence of Auto-Tune on the industry.

"There is some great stuff out there and there are some great artists," she said in a conversation with the New York Post's Page Six last October. "There's some very fine young artists out there doing great, great work that I am impressed with. But the others, they just need to get them a job at the post office — they are always hiring! People are using Auto-Tune. They need to get to the post office quick."

Chaka Khan
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Auto-Tune was introduced in 1996 by the company Antares Audio Technologies, initially to give artists the ability to correct notes that were off-key or inaccurate, but it's since been repurposed to let artists manipulate and distort vocals.

The latter is something Khan herself contended with two decades ago, when Kanye West sampled her classic "Through the Fire" on his debut 2003 single "Through the Wire."

Last August, she expressed that she was "upset about sounding like a chipmunk" on the song, which was written about West's near-fatal car accident that left his mouth wired shut, and used a sped-up sample of Khan's hit.

But while she gave him clearance to sample the song, Khan told Good Day D.C. in early 2022 that she didn't expect West to tinker with her voice the way he did.

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"I've not heard from him, and I'm not looking to hear from him. That's what he did with his music," she said. "I was upset about sounding like a chipmunk, 'cause he didn't put that when he asked [if he could] sample my song. He didn't mention he was going to speed it up three times its normal speed. Had he, I would've had something to say. But since I didn't think of that, believe me, I think of it now. [When someone asks to sample my music] I ask, 'How are we gonna do this?'"

For now, Khan is seemingly content to enter a new decade, but she has a caveat for the celebration too.

"That maybe the birthdays will seem a little further apart," she told ET. "That it doesn't seem like they're coming every five minutes. I know he's feeling that by now. Because I sure am! I'm like, 'Again?!'"

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