It’s a banner year for the so-called Queen of Funk, Chaka Khan, as 2023 marks 50 years in the music business, and on March 23, she’ll celebrate her 70th birthday. Ahead of that, she had some words for the editors at Rolling Stone regarding one Mary J. Blige.
On New Year’s Day, in what seemed an early birthday gift for the “I’m Every Woman” singer, Rolling Stone awarded Khan a high perch on its “The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time” list, putting her at #29—a great neighborhood, it would seem, with David Bowie three positions behind and Paul McCartney just three ahead and Khan leaving such icons as Diana Ross (#87), Janice Joplin (#78), Tina Turner (#55) and Mick Jagger (#52) in the dust. This is not to mention Celine Dion, whose snub caused the Canadian chanteuse’s fans to take to the streets and picket the magazine’s Manhattan offices.
In the latest episode of The Originals, the award-winning podcast from Los Angeles, Khan—who may be entitled to be henceforth also known as the “Queen of Candor”—reveals her personal thoughts on Rolling Stone’s list. Apparently, the very existence of the magazine’s list was unknown to the legendary singer before the podcast’s host, Andrew Goldman, congratulated her on being included.
“I didn’t even know what the hell you were talking about, so obviously this don’t mean a great deal to me,” she told him. “These people don’t quantify or validate me in any way.”
Nevertheless, Khan was curious to hear who else appeared in the top 200. Some of Rolling Stone’s decisions struck her as apt, like granting Aretha Franklin the top spot (“As she fucking should be”) and including Joan Baez on the bubble, at #189 (“let’s be honest, the bitch cannot sing. Now, she was a good writer.”) In granting Mariah Carey the #5 spot, however, Khan suspects the kind of industry chicanery that has long dogged the singer (“That must be payola or some shit like that.”).
It was Adele’s inclusion, a few spaces ahead of Khan at #22, that brought on a momentary existential crisis. (“Okay, I quit.”) However, nothing seemed to prepare Khan for the news that longtime frenemy Mary J. Blige appears on the list just ahead of her, at #25. Khan remarked on Rolling Stone’s editors. “They are blind as a motherfucking bat! They need hearing aids…These must be the children of Helen Keller!”
The history: Though decades ago in concert, Khan had been known to introduce the 1975 Rufus ballad, “Sweet Thing” as “the song Mary J. Blige fucked up” after the “queen of hip-hop soul” covered the song for her 1992 debut album. The pair appeared to have been enjoying a long détente, and Blige even sang on Khan’s 2007 song, “Funk This.” Now thanks to Rolling Stone, that truce may have run its course.
To the Rolling Stone editor who put Blige before Khan: Welcome to Chaka’s special s-list. Here you’ll join Ariana Grande, who failed to appear in in the same studio as Khan to record their duet “Nobody” for the 2019 Charlie’s Angels soundtrack, a snub that still stings. Khan explained: “I would never have somebody come sing on my motherfucking project without me knowing them.”
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