Chaka Khan will take the stage in Atlanta this Saturday. Make that, take the field.
The 10-time Grammy Award winner will join Doug E. Fresh and Atlanta’s own Future for the halftime show during the 24th annual Bank of America Atlanta Football Classic. The concert will be themed: “One Love. One Music. One Culture.”
When we talked by phone the other day we asked Khan if she’s into football.
“Between you and I absolutely not,” she said. “It’s not because I’m a girly girl. I’m not a Barbie doll. I’m just into other pastimes.”
Her addition to the lineup stems from friendship.
“Doug E. Fresh is a great friend of mine,” she said. “He asked me if I’d be involved and I said sure!”
Khan, who performed at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center earlier this year, made headlines by revealing health issues and then later with the stunning physique that resulted in her hard work.
“I got diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure,” Khan said. “I decided to focus on myself.”
Family matters, rather than concern over her image, propelled her to embrace a healthy lifestyle.
“I adopted my granddaughter who was 11 years old,” Khan said. “I was like, I need to be around for her. I have to run around after a little chick. I did not do it to appear more worthy to my fan base. It was to express all of us can get healthy. We can get on the right track. We can do this. It’s really one of the only decisions we have left.”
Along with performing and parenting, Khan’s hard at work on a new album.
“For my next CD I’m really focusing on empowerment and healing,” she said. “I see a lot of suffering, a lot of hurt, a lot of anger. I consciously don’t reach out for anything but excellence and honesty in a career that’s based on smoke and mirrors. Bringing honesty into the madness. I sense right now that the people on this planet need some kind of healing and a kick in the back side and a way to come together and stop certain things from happening to us.”
She was just getting warmed up.
“This is a calling to be an artist,” Khan continued. “It’s deeper than getting up there and looking cute on the stage and trying to sing or play or dance or whatever you do. A lot of times people only see the glamour aspect of it. They see you on stage but they don’t know what it took to get you there. Being out there is not all the time a very comfortable place to be. For me it’s a calling. I have to sing or I’ll go nuts. It’s my sanity, it’s my zen. It’s my nirvana. It’s why I’m here.”
We asked if Khan had seen “Sparkle,” starring her friend, the late Whitney Houston. Following Houston’s death Khan was critical of what she called the “dangerous people” in Houston’s life, and said her friend should have been focusing on recovery instead of performing at the end.
Khan has not yet seen the movie, also starring Jordin Sparks and Atlanta’s Cee-Lo Green, but doesn’t dread it. (When we attended a screening, there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater during Houston’s performance of the gospel classic “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”)
“I don’t think it’ll be hard for me to watch,” Khan said. “That’s the way I remember her. Her energy is still very much with us. She made her mark on this planet. She came and did what she was called to do and she did it beautifully.”
The Bank of America Atlanta Football Classic pits the Florida A&M University Rattlers against the Southern University-Baton Rouge Jaguars. The game starts at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome. Tickets range from $10 to $50 and are available at www.atlantafootballclassic.com, the Georgia Dome ticket office, www.ticketmaster.com or at the participating schools’ ticket offices. The football classic has raised more than $3 million during the past six years for Project Success, the organization’s post-secondary preparation and tuition assistance program for at-risk youth, and has generated almost $6 million in contributions for the participating universities.
The AJC is among the event’s sponsors. Others joining title sponsor Bank of America include AT&T, Abbott Laboratories, Coke Zero, Coors Light, Delta Air Lines, Georgia Power, Kia, MARTA, McDonalds, Toshiba, U.S. Army, and UPS.