Pictured in black and white, five men in suits are crowded around Chaka Khan. All are smiling at the camera.
Rufus featuring Chaka Khan in the late 1970s. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently announced its nominees for the Rock Hall Class of 2020 on Tuesday, Oct. 15. These potential candidates include first time nominees Pat Benatar, Motörhead, The Doobie Brothers, Dave Matthews Band, Soundgarden, Thin Lizzy, T. Rex, The Notorious B.I.G. and Whitney Houston along with returning nominees Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, MC5, Todd Rundren, Nine Inch Nails and Judas Priest. With three past nominations under their belt, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan should be one of the five inductees setting the stage next May. 

In order for an artist to be eligible for this prestigious group of music legends, their commercial debut would have had to be released at least 25 years prior to the year of induction. With a group as influential in the ‘70s funk genre as Rufus, it’s about time they finally get their due shine.

The Chicago group released their debut album in 1973—introducing the world to Khan’s powerhouse vocals for the first time with the smooth, yet expressive “Whoever’s Thrilling You (Is Killing Me).” It wasn’t until 1974’s “Rags to Rufus” when the band truly rose to mainstream stardom. Written by Stevie Wonder, “Tell Me Something Good” became a major hit in the United States—peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and winning them a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals that same year.

The band continued to release influential tracks including 1975’s “Sweet Thing,” which was famously covered by Mary J. Blige for her debut album “What’s the 411?” in 1992 and played live by Prince multiple times throughout his career. Up until Khan dabbled in her solo endeavors with the empowering “I’m Every Woman” in 1978 and left for good around the time of the funky cover of Prince’s “I Feel For You” in 1984, the group released tracks like the danceable “Do You Love What You Feel” and the love-stricken “Ain’t Nobody.”

In the short amount of time the group was together, they had four consecutive number one R&B albums and five number one R&B singles. In addition to the group’s funky and innovative backing instrumentation, Khan’s vocal prowess commands the music—almost being an instrument on its own. Khan has the musical sensibility to present her voice in a jazzy, sensual manner along with the ability to incorporate the searing chops of the typical vocal diva. 

Many of Rufus and Khan’s tracks have been repurposed by other artists including the “Sweet Thing” sample in SWV’s 1992 “I’m So Into You” and the “Hollywood” sample in J. Cole’s 2014 track “St. Tropez”—proving that their never wavering legacy continues to remain in the future generations of music to follow.

The decision for the final list of RRHOF inductees is ultimately decided through a body of over 1,000 voting members, but fans can also have their say by voting online. Fans can cast a ballot for their five favorite nominees on Google every day up until Jan. 10, 2020 by searching either “Rock Hall Fan Vote” or any nominee’s name plus “vote.” 

As Janet Jackson expressed in her induction speech during this May’s ceremony, “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, please, 2020: induct more women.” Hopefully with fans’ votes and action from the selection committee, this movement can continue to acknowledge monumental women who have paved the way in both music and cultural impact—and there’s no one better to honor than Khan and her frontwoman magic alongside Rufus.

Rylee Jackson can be reached at ryleejackson@sagebrush.unr.edu, or on Twitter @rybyjackson.