Where did the baby name Chakakhan come from?

Album "Rufus featuring Chaka Khan" (1975)
“Rufus featuring Chaka Khan” (1975)

When Grammy-winning singer Chaka Khan was born in Chicago in 1953, her name was Yvette Marie Stevens.

During her teens, Yvette “met a Yoruba priest who gave her a new name…based on her orishas, or guiding spirits.” Her new names, in order, were Chaka, Adunne, Aduffe, Yemoja, Hodarhi, and Karifi.

A few years later, she married for the first time and took her husband’s surname, Khan.

Hence, the stage name Chaka Khan.


Chaka joined the funk band Rufus in 1972.

In 1975, they released their fourth studio album, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, which included the popular single “Sweet Thing.”

That year and the next, the compound name Chakakhan appeared in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: 16 baby girls named Chakakhan
  • 1975: 21 baby girls named Chakakhan [debut]
  • 1974: unlisted
  • 1973: unlisted

Very likely these parents wrote the name with the space and the capital “K,” but it’s not rendered that way in the data because the SSA strips out things like spaces and internal capitalization.

The baby name Chaka also became more popular, but only for baby girls (many of whom were probably given Khan as a middle name):

Girls named ChakaBoys named Chaka
19778716
1976147 (rank: 899th)20
197512018
197415 [debut]18
1973.18

It has since dropped off the list entirely for both genders.

Chaka Khan eventually left Rufus and began a solo career, and in 2011 she was given the 2,440th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Source: Ollison, Rashod D. “Through the Fire.” Sun [Baltimore] 28 Oct. 2003: 1E.

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