“I Feel for You” by Chaka Khan (ft. Grandmaster Melle Mel & Stevie Wonder)
Chaka Khan has insinuated, apparently on more than one occasion, that “I Feel for You” isn’t necessarily her type of song, i.e. one in which the vocalist is presented as a hot girl. But the fact is that, despite being one of the most respected names in R&B, Chaka hasn’t necessarily sold a lot of records.
It can be said that this was especially true prior to the dropping of this track, which proved to be her signature song. So as alluded to later on in this post, things eventually reached the point during the mid-1980s whereas Chaka had to drop a solid hit, or else. And as the old saying goes sex sells, though this piece is a far cry from NSFW.
Grandmaster Melle Mel
Instead what we are met with, first of all, is Melle Mel expressing a desire to “rock” Chaka Khan. It’s safe to say that few listeners actually know the male vocalist on this track is the legendary Melle Mel.
And with that in mind, him making that expression isn’t intended to be symbolic of his personal love for Chaka.
Rather, it is more along the lines of depicting Khan as being desirable in general, i.e. a lady that this random dude, if you will, wants to “love”, “hug” and “squeeze”. Indeed, even though his desire for her is based on “a physical dream”, it can be ascertained that he does have deeper feelings for the songstress, also wanting to be “the one to keep (her) warm” and what have you.
But that said, once Chaka herself enters the fray, she makes it explicitly known to the addressee that ‘this feeling she has for him’ is “mainly a physical thing”. The sexual innuendo of this piece is more pronounced when the vocalist gets to detailing that ‘laying with him’ is akin to her favorite activity.
Then, Khan proceeds to celebrate ‘the things he does to her’ which ‘keep her satisfied’. And all lyrics considered, she is likely referring to activities that are physical/sexual in nature. But the chorus does indicate that besides “feel(ing) for” this individual, Chaka also ‘thinks she loves’ him.
So conclusively, this can be classified as a love song. However, it isn’t necessarily the standard type, i.e. one whereas the vocalist(s) goes about positing that her feelings for the addressee are founded in some type of deep, inner emotions. Instead in this case, it is firmly established that the basis of her is more carnally-based.
But that being noted, as relayed there remains the possibility of this relationship developing into something more substantive. Or put otherwise, most mature readers would likely agree that gratifying sex is an important element to establishing a lasting romantic relationship. And in this case, at least that particular aspect seems to have already been confirmed.
Featured Artists on “I Feel for You”
Grandmaster Melle Mel, one of the undeniable pioneers of hip-hop/rap music, is the vocalist you hear holding down the intro of this song, as well as the other “Chaka, Chaka, Chaka, Chaka Khan” segments.
And another music legend, Stevie Wonder, is noted as a featured artist due to rendering the harmonica, his signature instrument, on this track.
Perhaps the most interesting fact surrounding this song is it actually being written by the late Prince (1958-2016), who went on to become an A list musician himself.
Indeed it was Prince who first dropped a version “I Feel for You” in 1979, a couple of years before he proceeded to blow up. And he was also slated to participate on Chaka Khan’s version but was unable to make the appointment, which led to Stevie Wonder’s involvement instead.
Other notable musicians who participated on this recording are:
- keyboardist David Frank, who at the time was down with an R&B group known as The System
- drummer Steve Ferrone, who went on to join Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
- French musician Philippe Saisse
Release Date of “I Feel for You”
Prior to Chaka Khan’s dropping, this song was also covered by The Pointer Sisters (1982) and Rebbie Jackson (1984), sister of Michael.
Khan’s version, which Warner Records released on 12 October 1984, was produced by multi-faceted industry vet Arif Mardin (1932-2006). And it served as the title track and lead single to Chaka’s fifth solo album.
Success of “I Feel for You”
We’ve already used the term ‘legendary musician’ liberally in this post, but honestly that would also be the category Chaka Khan falls into, as she is highly revered in R&B circles. Her heyday was during the mid-1980s, wherein she won four Grammy Awards.
In 1985, she took home a Grammy in the category of Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female as a result of “I Feel for You”, and this piece does stand as her signature work. This song topped these charts:
- UK Singles Chart
- Irish Singles Chart
- Dance Club Songs
It has also been certified gold in the US and UK.
For the record, “I Feel for You” actually won two Grammys in 1985. One of these Grammys was for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance.
Other Interesting Facts
Whether or not Melle Mel’s intro can actually be considered a rap is a matter of perspective. Yet and still, “I Feel for You” holds the distinction of being one of the first songs ever to have a rapper team up with a singer.
Chaka Khan admitted that she “was floored” upon ‘hearing this voice saying her name over and over and what he wants to do to her’. And it does seem as originally intended, Mel may have rendered more of a full-fledged rap verse. But then Arif Mardin had a fortunate accident when his “hand slipped on the repeat machine”, resulting in the “Chaka, Chaka, Chaka, Chaka Khan” we’ve grown to know and love. That rendering proved so effective that, to Chaka’s chagrin, people still refer to her in such a manner apparently to this day, even though the songstress is approaching the age of 70 as of this writing.
It has also been put forth that Chaka Khan isn’t a fan of R&B music in general, at least not in terms of performing it. But Warner Bros. more or less forced her to lay down “I Feel for You”, i.e. a song that would hit, due to the fact that up until that point she experienced very limited success as a soloist.
To note, Chaka originally established herself in the music industry as part of a 1970s’ funk outfit known as Rufus.