Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Double Soul Birthday: Chaka Khan, Rufus Thomas Plus James Brown Returns to the Apollo


Yesterday it was Aretha Franklin’s birthday. Tonight it’s a 60th bday celebration for the amazing Chaka Khan. She’s having a big party on Manhattan’s west side with lots of celebs–although (sorry Page Six) Ms. Franklin sends her regrets.She’s got a big show up in White Plains. Chaka is a true survivor, and we are all better for it…

…Today would have been Rufus Thomas’s 96th birthday. He left us in 2001 with a huge legacy. The cornerstone of Stax Records with “Walking the Dog” and “The Funky Chicken” Rufus was the consummate showman. He was a deejay (he brought Elvis Presley to black radio– on WDIA), then became a full time performer. He had his own hits, and hits with his daughter Carla Thomas. They were the most beloved music stars out of of Memphis. Carla is still there, and so is Marvell, her famed keyboard playing brother (he’s on almost every classic Stax track). Their sister Vaneese lives here in New York and is one of the most sought after back up singers anywhere.

Did you know that Rufus and his wife Lorene– who worked with Martin Luther King– were married by Aretha Franklin’s father? I had the pleasure of getting to know Rufus and his family during the filming of “Only the Strong Survive.” He was was warm and hilarious, and one of the greatest American musical artists of all time. We miss you, Rufus! Your legend lives on.

One more thing: James Brown returns to the Apollo Theater this fall. “Get on the Good Foot”– a celebration of James Brown — will debut on October 22nd. Great choreographers from all over will stage this dancin’ tribute to the Godfather of Soul. Sounds terrific…

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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