Before Mary J Blige, Toni Braxton, Alicia Keys and all the new kids on the block, Atlanta-born Gladys Knight made her mark as one of the most successful Soul singers of our times.
Born Gladys Maria Knight on May 28, 1944, Knight started singing at the Baptist church choir at age 4. Encouraged by her mother, she then joined and won Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour at age 7. After realizing her talent, she decided to cultivate it by teaming up with her brother Bubba and cousins Edward Patten and William guest and formed the R&B/ Soul musical group called The Pips, named after Edward “Pip” Woods who is their cousin and manager. The group had immense success for 3 decades with their hit singles “I Heard it Through The Grapevine”, “Every Beat of My Heart’ and “Midnight Train to Georgia”. The musical quartet then gained three Grammy Awards for Best R&B Vocal, Pop Vocal Performance and R&B Performance By a Duo, Group or Chorus.
THE ROCKY ROAD:
Gladys Knight took a break in1960 when she found herself pregnant and married James Newman, a high school sweetheart. Sadly, she experienced miscarriage and later decided to return performing with The Pips. In 1962, Knight gave birth to a son that made her decide to retire from the group for a while. She then had a daughter a year after named Kenya. Due to the responsibility facing her, she decided to reunite with The Pips. They later renamed themselves as Gladys Knight and The Pips and signed with Motown record company. They eventually found themselves touring with big names like Diana Ross and The Supremes as an opening act. The quartet deliberately made a name in the industry by producing hit topping charts, collaborations (with Johnny Mathis and Patti LaBelle) and film movie soundtracks ( James Bond: A License to Kill).
THE SOLO CAREER:
Gladys Knight decided to pursue a solo musical career and had #1 songs like “That’s What Friends Are For” (with Elton John, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder). She had 9 solo albums which helped her earn various prestigious musical awards. She then explored the industry and ventured into television appearances, music specials and the big screen, Broadway performances, commercials and even wrote her autobiography and a cookbook for diabetics. To date, she has appeared in Benson, The Jeffersons, A Different World, Living Single, The Jamie Foxx Show and New York Undercover.
THE NEW LIFE:
After experiencing rocky marriages, Knight married William McDowell and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She then formed and lead a LDS gospel choir called Saints Unified Voices. As she has stated, her religion helped her live her life again as it was the best thing that ever happened to her.
Called the “Empress of Soul”, Gladys Knight is undeniably a legacy. Aside form being a singer and actress, she is an author, humanitarian and a philanthropist. She is a supporter of American Diabetes Association. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, has recorded around 30 albums and a seven-time Grammy Award winning artist. Just lately, she ventured into entrepreneurship and now owns the food chain called Gladys Knight & Ron Winans’ Chicken & Waffles. She is now a family person, with responsibilities of being a wife, mother and grandmother.
TJ – Rare Soul Grooves & Soul Music TV