‘What ‘Cha Gonna Do For Me’ by Chaka Khan (1981)

Ned Doheny was a white session musician from the ‘70s who came from money and played in the band, Average White Band. While existing for over thirty years, Doheny’s solo stuff has only come into my life recently through the good taste of friends playing cuts from the Numero Group compilation, Separate Oceans. My favourite of his compositions is ‘What ‘Cha Gonna Do For Me’. One of the smoothest R’n’B tunes around, it also functions as a question one should ask the self as we head into the deeper waters of Semester #1. What are you gonna do for you?

There’s a lot to stress about: juggling four units a semester, simultaneous assignment deadlines, making new friends, understanding what is soft rock, etc. What you can do for yourself is take some time out and walk down Matilda Bay. Head down a bit further past the Business School and to the dock where all the wind-surfers congregate. Yes, Nedlands’ own conclave of Point Break types, letting the winds and the waves bounce them across the waters. You stand there long enough, you’ll see a windsurfer’s gliding ease take a stumble, fall off, smack-bang into the deep. Setbacks are par for the course when you want the wind through your hair.

Now while Ned Donhey’s ‘What ‘Cha Gonna Do For Me’ is itself a gliding ease, Chaka Khan’s version takes it up a notch and sails that tune right into the stratosphere. The bounce of the horns, the chug of the rhythm guitar, the beat of the drums, all become blanketed by Khan’s soulful pipes, which escalate with the chorus. Listening to it, you might swoon like a coastal breeze that treats you right. The power in Khan’s voice, you wouldn’t want to mess with it or disappoint it. So, when it comes to your studies, think of Chaka Khan. Set yourself to that standard when the chips are down. Don’t disappoint yourself, don’t leave Chaka hanging.

As I was musing this, I accidentally dropped my slip-on phone cover into the water. An inconvenience, yes, but at least it wasn’t the more valuable item of my phone. I put the phone into my pocket as I stepped down onto the shore and picked up the leather phone cover as it drifted towards me. Couple of minutes in the afternoon sun, it was dry and ready to use. Across the water, a windsurfer sailed past a white two-tiered boat with Pelican written on the side. Sometimes life opens up, “in the cool of the night, when nothing feels right, the feeling can take you” as the song goes, and gives you all the answers.

For further Chaka Khan, please also check out ‘Through the Fire’, her Prince cover ‘I Feel For You’ (opens with a killer harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder), and of course, ‘I’m Every Woman’, which when played on a receptive dance-floor sets everyone on the right course.

I really sound like I know what I’m talking about, right? But it’s all second-hand knowledge gleaned from Wikipedia and friends. See how a bit of research can make you appear like an expert?

Words by Tristan “T-Fid” Fidler