Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

*Ahead of her New Year’s Eve concert at the Kennedy Center tonight, Chaka Khan, 62, sat down with the Washington Post to dish on a number of topics, including her “Dancing With the Stars” stint, which she called a “big faux pas.”

She also reveals if she’ll ever do reality TV again, (“I shant,” she says.), and the reason her next album is a tribute to folk legend Joni Mitchell:

Have you had a chance yet to reflect on 2015?

Yes, it’s been a good year for me. Some things happened that have really made everything more clear for me. It was a year of clarity.

What do you mean?

I had to make some changes in my whole regime and that is what brought about the clarity, so things are in a very good way because of that.

You competed on “Dancing With the Stars” this year, which wasn’t the most positive experience.

Oh, God, that was a big faux pas. Everybody makes mistakes, and I made one.

Do you regret it?

I have my regrets and most of them are private, ones that happened behind the scenes, because it was worse behind the scenes than in front of the camera. I was calling it “Dancing Behind Bars.” So it’s pretty tough and it seemed like it would never end. As soon as I got done dancing — getting eliminated first — I got back to myself and doing what I do: working hard in the studio and on the road. And then I get a call saying, “You gotta go back on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ It’s in your contract to go back on for a last dance and a musical number.” I said, “I’m not dancing. We can trade off: I’ll do two songs if I don’t have to dance.” So they got me with two songs. I did it, I’m done and I’m so glad it’s over.

And you will never dance again.

Never dance again — except on my stage, to my music.

Chaka Khan and Keo Motsepe compete on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars"

Chaka Khan and Keo Motsepe compete on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars”

What was challenging about the show?

I was not comfortable. My partner, although he was very good, I don’t think we were well matched. I’m very short, he was very tall. It was hard to keep up with his stride, for one. I think it was just a bad matching and that was probably the reason it didn’t work. Plus, we were working every day, Monday to Sunday, and some of the girls on there were not only doing that, they were flying back to the East Coast doing their TV shows, and it was killing them. And some of them lasted really long. It was like a freaking cattle drive.

So you won’t be doing reality TV again?

No, I shan’t. Absolutely not. I haven’t and I shan’t again.


It’s been several years since you put out an album. Are you working on any music?

Yeah, I am right now. I’m doing a Joni Mitchell tribute album.

Are you a big fan?

Oh yes, she’s my No. 1 artist and songwriter, and she has been for a long time.

Do you know her?

Yes, we’re good friends and she’s doing very well, by the way. I want everyone to know that she’s getting better and better every day.

So you’ve been in touch with her?

Yeah, I’m sending stuff to her as I do it and she’s loving it, so I’m happy. It’s sort of an unplugged experience. I’m using a guitar player from Nashville.

I imagine he brings some twang.

Yes, a little twang and funk. See, Joni Mitchell, she’s actually funky, she just doesn’t know it, and I’m bringing that forward. The jazz is in there. You get her, but I’ve slowed a lot of the stuff down because a lot of the lyrics — she’s a very fast singer, so sometimes it’s hard to catch her words — but I think she’s so relevant, so I’m really happy to dig into the words.

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