Meaning Behind the Song “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan

“I’m Every Woman” wasn’t just Chaka Khan’s breakout song as a solo artist, it was also an anthem for women around the world. Though it was the song that made Khan a solo star, she shares that recording it came from a vulnerable place. The song is now her signature hit and has defined her expansive career. Below, we look at the meaning behind “I’m Every Woman.”

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Meaning Behind the Song

“I’m Every Woman” was written by Ashford & Simpson, the hit songwriting duo of husband and wife Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson who had previously written songs for Diana Ross, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Smokey Robinson and other Motown greats. The song was written at the couple’s home in Connecticut when Simpson was playing on the piano and sparked Ashford’s inspiration when he came up with the line that would become the iconic title.

“I told him to dig into his feminine side,” Simpson recalled to People in 2021 about advising her husband during the songwriting process. “I knew immediately it was a great title, which he got from me playing the chord [on the piano]. It was one of those things that just all came together.”

“I’m Every Woman” set the tone for Khan’s solo career, released as her debut single off her first solo album, Chaka, in 1978. It marked her first hit after building stamina as the lead singer of Chicago-bred funk band, Rufus, known for hits “Tell Me Something Good,” “Ain’t Nobody” and others. The group blazed a trail for a decade between 1973 and 1983, with three of their albums consecutively hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. “I’m Every Woman” was a hit, topping the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and reaching No. 21 on the Hot 100.

“I knew I was creating something because it took me a long long time to feel some kind of comfort singing something like ‘I’m Every Woman,'” Khan explained on the Jennifer Hudson Show, saying that she interpreted the title of the song “literally.”

“I was reading it from an insecure place and I said, ‘This song’s not saying that you are every woman.’ The song is saying together, collectively I’m every woman and it’s all in me,” she reflects on the song’s defining lyric in the chorus. “It took me a while to get comfortable singing that and once I got it and I said, ‘Ok, I understand it now.'”

As for how she defines the empowering song, Khan sees it as a message to “many women.” “It’s really talking about in a plural way, in a collective way,” she observes. “We are all every woman and it’s all in us.”

“That song became very much a woman’s anthem,” Simpson adds. “With Chaka, she just is like a dynamo, unstoppable, very sexy person. Her persona is just all woman, which is why she did ‘I’m Every Woman’ so well.”

Whitney Houston Version

The song got a second life when Whitney Houston got a hold of it and recorded it for The Bodyguard soundtrack and released it as a single in 1993. Houston turned it into an international hit, reaching No. 1 on multiple charts in the U.S., including the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. She also took it to No. 4 on the Hot 100. It also reached the top 10 in the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, Iceland and more.

Simpson describes Houston’s rendition as taking the track “so much further than you could ever imagine — she gave it wings,” she praises. “Her voice was just spectacular. Any songwriter, you want a vehicle that can carry your song beyond itself, and she had that kind of voice.”

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

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