Rufus

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Rufus

Rufus , a Chicago-based multiracial funk and dance group of the 1970s. Membership: Chaka Khan (Yvette Marie Stevens), voc. (b. Great Lakes, Ill., March 23, 1953); Kevin Murphy, kybd.; Nate Morgan, kybd.; Tony Maiden, gtr.; Bobby Watson, bs.; John Robinson, drm. Nate Morgan was replaced by David Wolinski in 1977.

Rufus scored a series of pop and R&B hits between 1974 and 1983. Featuring the powerful voice and erratic stage presence of Chaka Khan, Rufus achieved their first crossover smash with Stevie Wonder’s “Tell Me Something Good” and persevered through 1983’s “Ain’t Nobody.” Chaka Khan began a parallel solo career in 1978, and left Rufus for good in 1983, but she has enjoyed limited success.

Rufus evolved out of the American Breed (1968’s “Bend Me, Shape Me”) in the person of keyboardist Kevin Murphy. He formed Smoke, later known as Ask Rufus, with a variety of players. With the departure of vocalist Paulette McWilliams, Murphy recruited black vocalist Chaka Khan in 1972. Born Yvette Stevens, she had formed her first vocal group at age 11 and quit school to work with Chicago groups such as Lyfe and the Babysitters, changing her name to Chaka Khan in 1970. Signed to ABC Records, Rufus′ debut album sold poorly. By 1974 the group was comprised of Khan, Murphy, keyboardist Nate Morgan, guitarist Tony Maiden, bassist Bobby Watson, and drummer John Robinson. During sessions for their second album, the group encountered Stevie Wonder, who offered his “Tell Me Something Good.” The song became a smash pop and R&B hit in 1974, and the album, Rags to Rufus, later yielded crossover smashes with “You Got the Love” and “Once You Get Started,” effectively launching the group’s career.

Featuring infectious driving rhythms and the strong vocals of Chaka Khan, Rufus achieved smash R& and moderate pop hits with “Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me of a Friend),” “Sweet Thing” (a pop smash), and “Dance Wit Me” from Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, as well as “At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up)” and “Hollywood” from Ask Rufus. David Wolinski replaced Nate Morgan in 1977, and the crossover hits continued with “Stay,” “Do You Love What You Feel,” and “Sharing the Love” through 1981. Rufus recorded- Numbers and Party ’TilYou’re Broke without Chaka Khan, but neither album sold well or produced a hit single. Chaka Khan’s final two albums with Rufus, Camouflage and the live set Stompin’ at the Savoy, produced Rufus’ final R& smashes with “Sharing the Love” and “Ain’t Nobody” (a major pop hit), respectively.

Chaka Khan initiated her solo career in 1978, scoring an R& smash and major pop hit with Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson’s “I’m Every Woman,” and the R& smashes “Clouds” and “What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me.” She next recorded an album of jazz standards, Echoes of an Era, with Chick Corea, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, and Lenny White, and the jazz-style Chaka Khan. Khan later scored the R& smash “Got to Be There” and the top R& and smash pop hit “I Feel for You,” written by Prince and recorded with Grandmaster Mel and Stevie Wonder, but subsequent singles were essentially restricted to the R& field. She managed a major pop hit in 1989 with “I’ll Be Good for You,” recorded with Quincy Jones and Ray Charles, from Jones’s album Back on the Block, but 1993’s “Feels Like Heaven,” recorded with Peter Cetera, proved to be only a minor pop hit. She appeared on the video and recording of Whitney Houston’s 1993 remake of “I’m Every Woman.”

Discography

rufus: R.(1973); Rags to R.(1974); Rufusized (1974); R. Featuring Chaka Khan (1975); Ask Rufus (1977); Street Player (1978); Numbers (1978); Masterjam (1979); Party ‘Til You’re Broke (1981); Camouflage (1981); Very Best (1982); Soul in Red (1983); Live—Stompin’ at the Savoy (1983). chaka khan: Chaka (1978); Naughty (1980); What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me (1981); Chaka Khan (1982); I Feel for You (1984); Destiny (1986); C.K.(1988); Life Is a Dance/The Remix Project (1989); The Woman I Am (1992). chaka khan/chick corea/freddie hubbard/joe henderson/lenny white Echoes of an Era (1982).

—Brock Helander

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