Happy Birthday to 2022 Kennedy Center Award recipient, Gladys Knight, who turns 79 on Sunday (May 28th)!!!
Born in Atlanta, Knight got her start performing gospel music in her local church choir, and by the age of seven she won first prize on the TV show Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour. Shortly thereafter, Knight helped form the Pips with her brother Merald — better known as “Bubba” — and two cousins, Edward Patten and William Guest. Sadly, Guest died at age 74 on December 24th, 2015 from congestive heart failure in Detroit.
The group signed to Motown Records in 1966, where they scored major hits such as “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “If I Were Your Woman,” and “Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye).” After leaving Motown in the mid-’70s, Knight and the Pips moved to Buddha Records and recorded a string of smashes, including “Midnight Train To Georgia” and “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.” Gladys Knight & The Pips parted ways in 1989 and Knight continues to record as a solo artist. In 1996, Gladys Night & The Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Back on September 13th, 2020, Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle came together for a legendary VERZUZ battle. The two went hit-for-hit on Instagram Live and Apple Music, tackling LaBelle’s “Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is),” Gladys Knight & The Pips’ “Midnight Train To Georgia,” and more.
During the last round, Dionne Warwick came on the stage to perform “That’s What Friends Are For” with Knight and LaBelle. The ladies closed out the battle with a performance of “Superwoman.” All told, the R&B legends had more than 500,000 viewers tuned in.
In 2019, Gladys Knight performed the national anthem at Super Bowl LIII (53).
2007 the release of saw Knight’s critically acclaimed collection of standards, called Before Me. In 2014 she released her latest original album, Where My Heart Belongs.
Gladys Knight & The Pips left Motown in 1972 — and she told us that in the end, she and the Pips served Motown better than the label ever did them: “When we left Motown, we left them with a hit! That’s how we got two Grammys that first year. One was ‘Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)’ which we left with Motown, which we didn’t have to do! Y’know, we had no obligations to Motown at all. But we felt that this was a strong, more than likely a hit record when we did ‘Neither One Of Us.’ And we were in the process of doing ‘Midnight Train To Georgia,’ we were still recording when we left.”
Knight continues to tour frequently and says that she never tires of performing: “I have really, over my lifetime, been given something wonderful. And I didn’t know it in the beginning, y’know? It took me a while to realize that I had been blessed with something. But I’ve been singing all of this time, and y’know, every time I step on that stage, the other blessing is, it’s brand new for me. So I just love it, I really do.”
The seven-time Grammy Award winner admitted to us that unlike many other veteran artists, she’s never grown tired of performing any of her legendary hits: “I love to sing every song that I’ve done, and I’m not saying that just to make everything all right here. Every audience is different, and I feed on what you give me, so it’s really not about the song — it’s about the actual performance. It’s about us coming together, and that makes it OK for me to sing that song over and over and over again, because it’s a new chemistry.”
Gladys Knight’s next North American date is set for June 16th at Indianapolis’ Madam Walker Legacy Center.