Chaka Khan says she is honored to be the headline guest for her most loyal fans, even if she is unsure why the lesbian-gay community is so dedicated to her.
“I don’t know,” she says, her distinctive voice dropping a half-octave. “Maybe it’s because I’m butchy.”
She says she is particularly excited about being the star of Pittsburgh Pride this year, just weeks after same-sex marriages were allowed in Pennsylvania.
“I will be thrilled to be up on the stage there,” she says.
Khan, a 10-time Grammy award winner, who has mastered music from Broadway show appearances to the funk of big-hall concerts, will be headlining the state’s largest lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender event June 14 in a show Downtown.
Pittsburgh Pride is put together by the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, one of the largest LGBT-rights groups in the state. Its theme this year is “Be Brave,” as it recalls the Stonewall Riots, the violent demonstrations in New York City in 1969 that are sometimes seen as the beginning of the gay-rights movement.
Chaka Khan’s concert will be at the close of Pride in the Street when Liberty Avenue is shut down between 5 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. for a dance party that also will feature Ayah Marar, Vita Chambers, Lazaro Arbos, and drag performer Jezebel.
But, of course, Chaka Khan is the star and says she is “happy to be performing” in Pittsburgh, fulfilling a date that fell apart in 2013 at the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival. She was billed at the closing act then, but canceled all of her shows that summer because of health problems.
She is feeling fine, now, and says she is “as busy as all-get-out.” She says she set attendance records recently at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London and then followed up those dates with a trip to northern England.
She was at Ronnie Scott’s with the band, Incognito, but will bring her own eight-piece band here.
Her career dates back to 1974 with her hit, “Tell Me Something Good,” which began to establish her as a star. Since then, she has performed with stars from Mary J. Blige to Miles Davis. She has appeared with symphony orchestras and onstage, such as in Broadway’s “The Color Purple.” She has sung hard-driving rhythm and blues but also did a version of “A Night in Tunisia” with Dizzy Gillespie.
She has been involved in rights issues of various kinds, and established the Chaka Khan Foundation. It began as a way to develop more awareness on autism, but expanded to include help for at-risk women and children.
Khan say she is glad to be a part of the Pittsburgh Pride celebration because her LGBT audience members “are my most-dedicated, least-fickle fans.” She is the twice-married mother of two children and says she has no gay or bisexual interests.
“Not that I’m aware of, at any rate,” she adds with a laugh. “Heck, I’ve been celibate for eight years.”
Besides the all-evening dance party, Pittsburgh Pride will include Splash!, the annual swim party June 12 at the dramatic Mt. Washington home of Steven Herforth and Peter Karlovich. A pub crawl will be held June 13, Downtown.
Events will close June 15 with the Pride March, Downtown, and then PrideFest, a free street festival with 150 vendors and all-day entertainment on Liberty Avenue between Sixth and 10th streets.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7852.