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Singer Chaka Khan on 'God shots'

By Jill Cox-Cordova, CNN
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CNN Red Chair Interview: Chaka Khan
  • Music legend Chaka Khan opens up during a CNN Red Chair interview
  • She says many people have named their "best friend" after her
  • Chaka calls special moments in her life "God Shots"
  • She raises money to help children who share her nephew's disease

New Orleans (CNN) -- The legendary Chaka Khan, dressed in a regal purple and blue blouse and slacks, glides into the CNN Red Chair Interview room. She's wearing stunning, large, hoop earrings crafted by her mother.

Her energy, warm and embracing, is big enough to blow out a nearby spotlight.

"Did I do that?" she calmly asks.

"No," I assure her as I try to get the attention of my shooter/producer/editor to resolve the problem.

I ask the singer what I should call her. She seems surprised and tells me to please call her "Chaka." I respond that my stepdaughter is also named "Chaka."

Her face lights up.

"People usually name their dogs after me," she whispers, as though we are girlfriends sharing a funny secret. But she keeps no secrets during our interview. She says she'll answer just about any question, and she does.

Chaka tells funny stories and shares pivotal moments, a few of them sad. She apologizes for not remembering anything about her childhood, but later sent some of her baby pictures.

The one thing she recalls from way back when, however, is that she always wanted to be an anthropologist. Her singing career allowed her to become one, she says.

She loves children and cries when she relives the day she realized she could not have a conversation with her nephew Tallon, who has autism.

I remind her of how many people she's helping through her Chaka Khan Foundation, which has raised more than $4 million. The foundation says it "is dedicated to assisting women and children at risk with a particular emphasis on education and autism."

Through tears, she smiles, "I hope so. I hope so."

Her "God Shots," as she calls her "aha" moments, keep coming. She loves life and each moment God gives her, she says.

Her latest special moment was during a flight with an autistic boy who was "talking, talking, talking" as he got on the plane, she recalls.

A storm during the flight made everyone including him go silent. However, when the plane landed safely, the boy announced, "We're all back now."

That's right, she reflected. It was like a homecoming, a shot at life again.

After our conversation, she won't leave the room until she sees a picture of my little Chaka. My husband gladly thumbs through his iPhone for photos of his daughter.

Chaka Khan says she is "just Chaka." Her CNN Red Chair Interview shows that she's someone to remember.

CNN Red Chair Interviews strive to look at people's past to see what made them who they are today. We also want to know the biggest pivotal and "aha" moments of their lives.

Be sure to read and watch next Wednesday's revealing conversation with minister and author Jacquie Hood Martin.

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