If you have come
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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.
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.
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."
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?
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.
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".
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).
© Maria Granditsky