For Chaka Khan, the decision to salute "little sister" Whitney Houston at New York's storied Apollo Theater was a no-brainer.
"I got asked to do it, and I said yes," the R&B survivor says of her scheduled appearance Monday night at the annual Apollo Spring Gala. "It's no secret that I loved Whitney to death. I love her in death, as in life."
Lionel Richie and Etta James will be inducted into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame, and other late legends will be honored —Soul Train creator Don Cornelius by Eddie Levert, and Nick Ashford by his songwriting partner and widow, Valerie Simpson.
To remember Houston, Khan will "probably sing I'm Every Woman," a hit for Khan in 1978 and for Houston in 1993.
"It's the song we share," says Khan, 59, who hasn't yet heard Celebrate, Houston's first posthumous single. A duet with Jordin Sparks, the single appears on the upcoming soundtrack to the remake of Sparkle and goes on sale Tuesday. Another track, Houston's rendition of His Eye Is on the Sparrow, is out June 12.
After Houston's death in February, Khan spoke of her own past addiction struggle, and said Houston should have been monitored during her hectic final days.
She also criticized the decision not to cancel the pre-Grammys party held just hours after the diva's death.
"I still feel all that," Khan admits. "But I've moved on — as has Whitney. At this point, we just make sure that her daughter (Bobbi Kristina) is OK, and that all of our children don't fall into that horrible place this business can take you."
Music journalist Alan Light, co-author of the Gregg Allman memoir My Cross to Bear, notes that Khan "is another artist who has had to balance having this incredible vocal instrument with battling demons."
For now, Khan appears to have her demons under control. She's in the studio ("I want to get a couple of songs out before the summer's over") and hopes to release a new album next year.
Khan also lost 60 pounds recently and showed off her figure in a catsuit on the recent American Idol finale. Khan wasn't pleased, however, that Jessica Sanchez, who performed the Houston smash I Will Always Love You, lost to Phillip Phillips.
"It's an atrocity that that little girl didn't win," Khan says. "It smacked of something — something that I don't want to get into."
She's more direct in discussing another recent project: In March, Khan led a group recording of Super Life as a tribute to slain teen Trayvon Martin.
"I'm just sick of kids killing each other and getting killed," says Khan. "Teenage boys have become an endangered species. Maybe it's up to us women to step up and do something."