Chaka Khan is well known for many things in the music business. Her time as the front woman of the band Rufus, and the many hits they had together. Her solo career, and the many hits that came from it. What may not be known is that she could have been a featured vocalist on two smash hits from the 1980s for other artists, but for a yes/no decision from her record company.
At the time, Chaka was recording for Warner Brothers Records for her solo career. She was coming off her very successful I Feel For You album and the smash hit single of the same name. Two different artists wanted her to sing with them on their upcoming singles. The first of these was Robert Palmer, who requested that she be a duet partner for a song called “Addicted To Love.” Her record company refused to release her to sing the song with Palmer, who at the time was recording for Island Records. Despite being turned down, Palmer gave background vocal arrangement credit to Khan, even as her voice wasn’t even on the song. Thanks to an iconic video, and some help from Power Station members Tony Thompson (Chic) on drums and Andy Taylor (Duran Duran) on guitar, Palmer still had a big hit with the song. Released in January, 1986, it would become a #1 hit later in the year.
Steve Winwood was also looking for Chaka Khan to sing background vocals on his hit “Higher Love” later that same year. Unlike Palmer, though signed to the same label, Winwood was allowed to have Khan sing with him. Maybe the reason she was allowed to sing on this track is because she sang backup and not a lead part. If you listen, you can hear her singing on the background chorus parts, as well as the fade out at the end, when her signature wail can clearly be heard. There’s no telling whether or not Khan’s vocals made a difference on Winwood’s track, as it too rocketed up to #1 the same year Palmer’s did.
Some other fun facts about the two songs: Chic member Bernard Edwards produced Palmer’s song, while co-member Nile Rodgers played rhythm guitar on Winwood’s hit. Guitarist Eddie Martinez played on both songs as well. Incidentally, both songs out-performed Khan’s releases that year on the pop charts; her best showing that year was with the single “Love Of A Lifetime,” which got as high as #53.
I liked both songs, but if you asked me to choose…well I can’t really. I might give “Higher Love” a slight edge, but I jammed both of them to death. What say you? Would Chaka Khan have made “Addicted To Love” better as a duet, or is it just perfect the way it is? I hope you enjoy both songs, and as always, thanks for reading and listening.