Music Box – Happy Birthday, Chaka Khan. We Love You Still.

Love Me Still is a hauntingly beautiful song sung by legendary soul singer Chaka Khan, who co-wrote the song with Bruce Hornsby (who plays piano on the track and appears in the video) and was initially featured on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s 1995 film, “Clockers.” I fell in love with the song and it remains one of those ballads that leaves me breathless, and even for a long while in the mid-1990s, I used it as the music on my answering machine (remember those?).

Of her myriad of sonic gifts – the funk, the grit, the spunk etc… – Love Me Still touches me for its pure simplicity; there are no vocal pyrotechnics, no improvisational scattering, no jazzy quirk – just a straightforward reading via Khan’s richly clarion vocals, accompanied by the gorgeous tickling of the ivories by Mr. Hornsby.

There are two versions of the video that were released, both directed by Spike Lee. The soundtrack version has clips of the film interspersed throughout and the standard version omitted that footage.

In an excerpt of the January/February 1997 issue of Performing Songwriter, writer Lydia Hutchinson asks Khan about the songs origin, and co-writing it with Hornsby:

Tell me about writing “Love Me Still” with Bruce Hornsby.

“I went to Virginia and visited with Bruce and his family and had such a great time. We were working on some songs, and he finally said, “OK, I know you like this melody so let me work on it some more and send it to you.” So he finished it and sent it to me and when I heard it, it just blew me away. It was this beautiful hymn-like piece and it just sort of told me what it was about—the sentiment was there. So I sat down and the lyrics just came out. And I recorded it immediately and was so happy with it that I called Bruce up and played it for him over the phone. And we were both knocked out by it.”

How long did those lyrics take you?

“Oh, they took a while … at least a couple of hours.”

(Laughing) A couple of hours?

“That’s a long time to be messing around with words!” (Laughs)

Have you noticed a maturing process that you’ve gone through vocally, such as “less is more”?

“Absolutely. My thing was always to kind of scream and go over the top. When I listen to my old stuff I also sound like I’m going at about three speeds faster than I am now. I sound a little bit frantic and young and wet. Now my vibrato has slowed down. My voice has deepened. So yeah, it definitely feels much more effective to pull back and then be choosier about the over-the-top parts.”

I really noticed a more reserved delivery in the song you and Hornsby wrote.

“That was one of the hardest songs I’ve ever had to sing, because I knew I had to really hold back on it and still get the message and emotion across.”

Ain’t nobody…like Chaka Khan. Happy Birthday!

Love Me Still (with “Clockers” footage):

Love Me Still (standard version):

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