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Biography Pt. 1

Biography Pt. 2 | Discography | News | Sound Clips

Taka Boom was born Yvonne Stevens in Chicago, Illinois on October 8, 1954; a year and a half after her sister Yvette, better known as Chaka Khan, had arrived into this world. The two sisters aren't the only musically inclined siblings in the family. Brother Mark, born 1960, is a vocalist/bassist -who you may remember as the lead singer in The Jamaica Boys- and although her vocal capabilities are unknown, youngest sister Tammy is a different, but nevertheless heavy force in the music industry, as both Chaka and Taka's personal manager.

Taka and Chaka (or Bonnie and Yvette, as they still call each other) grew up in a middle class household in the university area of Chicago. Charles, their father, was a photographer and an avid Jazz fan, while their mother, Sandra, worked at the Public Opinion Research Center. According to some sources I encountered while doing research for the interview, Sandra sang Opera, a piece of information Taka found very amusing.
"No, she never did, at least not to my knowledge", Taka laughed. "At best, I'd say my mother is a cabaret kind of singer. She likes Barbra Streisand, Gladys Knight and I have memories growing up, from a very young age, hearing even Doris Day at home. My mother loves Pop and R&B and my father's always been into Jazz. Chaka and I don't have a Gospel background at all. We were Catholics, so we really weren't exposed to it."

By constantly hearing music and singing from day one, it seems as if none of the two sisters can remember exactly when and how their remarkable talent began to show. But in their pre-teens, after harmonizing together around the house and at their mothers card parties, they felt secure enough to form their first group, The Crystalettes.
"It was myself, Chaka and two other girls named Nicki and Vanessa", Taka recalled. "The group was a singing group and we were all dressed alike and we sang Top 40 Soul songs from that period. We did theater work, a lot of shows and venues that were theater-like, as opposed to clubs. We did loads of talent shows that were open to the public."

Taka Boom (1979)Following the break-up of the Crystalettes, Chaka and Taka joined The Shades of Black, an outfit which was light years away from the cute dresses and Top 40 format. "Yeah, that was later on in the sixties. That was also during a black awareness period in the States. We sang African songs and we were all vegetarians and wore African garments. That's when we changed our names from Yvonne and Yvette to Taka and Chaka. It was a very cultural time and it was good while it lasted. The Shades of Black went on for two years and we still stayed in the theater kind of environment, we didn't do too many club dates, because it was not a venue that would cater to our type of music. So, when the group broke up, we were still in and out of school, deciding what we were gonna do about that. I think it was at around that time when we both decided to drop out of high-school. She (Chaka) did it her second year and when I got to my second year, I did it too. Chaka and I were very rebellious, there was a lot of running away from home, no meeting of the minds with our mother, you know. But we behaved like any predicable, rebellious teenager, I guess. That was also around the time we joined our own groups. I don't remember the names of all the groups that Chaka was in, but one of them was Baby Huey and The Baby Sitters. She was lead singer for that, after Baby Huey passed away. I think she did something with Lock and Chain, which is a local Chicago group and they're really good. I joined a group called Sweet Fire, which was a nine-piece rock band with a three-piece horn section. We did Top 40 rock. The gigs were mostly local, but that's when I did the clubs, I did all the rock venues on the north side of Chicago, the rock venues that had any kind of name. That lasted for at least two and a half years."

Taka Boom (1981)By 1970, Chaka had ran away from home for good and lived in Los Angeles. Some two years later, Taka packed her bags and followed. There, Taka met and married saxophonist John Brumbach and after taking on her husband's nick, "Boom", Taka's stage name was complete. Since then, Taka's re-married, but she's kept her first husband's unusual nick name. Where on earth did he get it from, I wondered?
"He used to blow up the ground, because he built in-ground swimming pools. This was in Illinois. He helped build the pool as well, but he was also responsible for detonating the ground, so they nicknamed him 'Boom'. He played tenor sax with a lot of people. Boom's worked with Rufus, The Gap Band, Bloodstone, Dennis Coffey and Parliament-Funkadelic. He's got a solo on the 'Mothership Connection' album, on 'P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked up)'. So we're both on that album. I'm on three Parliament-Funkadelic albums. But I was not a Bride, that's a misconception. I would have liked to, though, I think they both were great groups, but that just didn't happen. As a matter of fact, I never really worked with the Brides or Parlet, but I had a really good friendship with George (Clinton) and whenever he was in the studio with Parliament, he would call me. I would go in and do backgrounds and that's really the extent of that. I also did some work with Bootsy. This was on one of his later albums, one that he recorded in New York. That was in the eighties, though."

Just a few years after arriving in Los Angeles, Taka was already an established member of the East Coast session and live vocalist Mafia. The early- to mid seventies were busy years, indeed.
"I did work with Carl Carlton, he had a hit with 'Everlasting Love' when I was on the road with him. D.J. Rogers, I did the album 'Say You Love Me' with him and I did some demos with The Gap Band, when they'd just come to L.A. from Tulsa. Marc Bolan, Chaka, Parliament-Funkadelic, I did a lot of studio sessions with all those people. Those were really crazy days. I remember doing some sessions with Sly Stone in L.A., sessions I never got paid for."

Undisputed Truth 'Method To The Madness' (LP, 1976)In 1976, Taka was auditioned by Norman Whitfield, who needed a female vocalist for The Undisputed Truth. Whitfield had just left Motown Records and set up his own, Warner-distributed label, Whitfield Records. Suitably impressed by Taka's voice, which has been described as having " the range and power of a diva, the Soul of a Gospel singer and the energy of a rocker", Whitfield immediately hired her. The Undisputed Truth had been formed in 1970 and was Whitfield's brainchild; serving up an exquisite mix of psychedelic Rock, Funk and Soul, the same formula Whitfield had used on The Temptations. The Undisputed Truth enjoyed their biggest hit with "Smiling Faces Sometimes" in 1971, but had since then gone through a number of personnel changes. When Taka came on board, the only remaining member from the original line-up was the husky-voiced Joe Harris (Tyrone "Lil Ty" Barkley and Calvin "Dhaakk" Stephenson had joined in 1973). "Method To The Madness" was the groups' seventh album and yielded the hit singles "You + Me=Love" and "Let's Go Down To The Disco".
"'You + Me' was the hit on that and that secretly went Gold. It was very underground Disco, it was just very low-key how it went Gold, that's what I mean. Working with the guys in Undisputed was a lot of fun. Joe Harris was a funny, very witty, intelligent man, but a bit paranoid. You know, when you're working with Motown people that's probably one of the best defenses you could have. The paranoia comes with the territory. He was a lot of fun and so were the two other guys, Tyrone and Dhaakk. Dhaakk portrayed like a cosmic witch doctor on stage, we all wore just very strange and amazing clothing. It was very bizarre, now that I look back at it. The music was really out there too and I loved it. It was a great experience for me to work with Norman, but I fell out of love with the whole project and with him. We had a few confrontations that weren't really nice. I stood up to him and there was not a lot of that going on in his interactions with other people. Norman was unpredictable. You sort of felt like you were walking on nails around him. It was never a laid-back, easy kind of vibe happening between him and someone else. It was always some tension there. Norman was like a slave master with a whip, whereas George (Clinton) was fun, he was just a fool. But both their presences are very overbearing, but in different ways. I left Undisputed Truth because I didn't like the way things were ran. Norman, having total creative control. He was the writer, the producer, the arranger, the costume designer, the album co-ordinator.. Everything! The people he's worked with, they've been talented and they've had things to offer, but you know, he just had to run everything. But it was worth it enough to me, to deal with him and put up with that, because I admired him so. I thought he was just a super talented man and a brilliant personality. His track record and reputation proceeded him naturally, but I didn't know what kind of guy he was until I started working with him. So I suffered from that, but I learned a lot from Norman, things that I'm so grateful for today. I'm talking about things in my singing."

Glass Family (LP, 1978)After Taka left The Undisputed Truth, she became the lead vocalist for The Glass Family, which was a Disco project, assembled by Jim Callon. Callon produced The Glass Family's E.P. and issued it on his own, independent label JDC in 1978. The catchy single "Mr. DJ. You Know How To Make Me Dance" was a big club hit and reached #88 on Billboard's R&B chart in November that year. The three-tracks mini-LP also contained a song called "No One Can Find Love" and the 16 minutes long (!) "Disco Concerto", which was divided into four parts. The credits boasted performances from horn players Fred Wesley and "Boom", plus guitarist/producer/arranger/writer Paul Sabu, who was a hot name on the Disco scene at the time. (Among others, Sabu worked with Debbie Jacobs, famed for "Don't You Want My Love" on MCA).
  

 

Bio continued..

 


Biography Pt. 2 | Discography | News | Sound Clips

     

Maria Granditsky February 1997.
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