Gladys Knight

Best known as the “Empress of Soul” American singer. Songwriter, Gladys Knight was born 28th May 1944. She is best known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both the Motown and Buddah Records labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips, the most famous incarnation of which also included her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight and her cousins Edward Patten and William Guest. Knight has won a total of seven Grammy awards (four as a solo artist, and three with The Pips).Gladys Knight & the Pips joined the Motown roster in 1966, and scored several hit singles, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, (recorded first by Marvin Gaye but released a year later), “Friendship Train” (1969), “If I Were Your Woman” (1970), “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” (1971), the Grammy Award winning “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (1972), and “Daddy Could Swear (I Declare)” (1973).

Gladys Knight & the Pips joined the Motown roster in 1966, and, although regarded as a second-string act, scored several hit singles, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, (recorded first by Marvin Gaye but released a year later), “Friendship Train” (1969), “If I Were Your Woman” (1970), “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” (1971), the Grammy Award winning “Neither One of Us (Want to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (1972), and “Daddy Could Swear (I Declare)” (1973). In their early Motown career Gladys Knight and the Pips toured as the opening act for Diana Ross and The Supremes. Gladys Knight stated in her memoirs that Ross kicked her off the tour because the audience’s reception to Knight’s soulful performance overshadowed her. Berry Gordy later told Gladys that she was giving his act a hard time.The act left Motown for a better deal with Buddah Records in 1973, and achieved full-fledged success that year with hits such as the Grammy-winning “Midnight Train to Georgia” , I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” and “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happeed to Me”. In the summer of 1974, Knight and the Pips recorded the soundtrack to the successful film Claudine with producer Curtis Mayfield.

The act was particularly successful in Europe, and especially the United Kingdom. However, a number of the Buddah singles became hits in the UK long after their success in the US. For example, “Midnight Train to Georgia” hit the UK pop charts Top 5 in the summer of 1976, a full three years after its success in the U.S.During this period of greater recognition, Knight made her motion picture acting debut in the film Pipe Dreams, a romantic drama set in Alaska. The film failed at the box-office, but Knight did receive aGolden Globe Best New Actress nomination.Knight and the Pips continued to have hits until the late 1970s, when they were forced to record separately due to legal issues, resulting in Knight’s first solo LP recordings–Miss Gladys Knight(1978) on Buddah and Gladys Knight (1979) on Columbia Records. Having divorced James Newman II in 1973, Knight married Barry Hankerson (future uncle of R&B singer Aaliyah), then Detroit mayor Coleman Young’s executive aide. Knight and Hankerson remained married for four years, during which time they had a son, Shanga Ali. Upon their divorce, Hankerson and Knight were embroiled in a heated custody battle over Shanga Ali.In the early 1980s, Johnny Mathis invited Gladys to record two duets – “When A Child Is Born” (previously a hit for Mathis) and “The Lord’s Prayer”.

Signing with Columbia Records in 1980 and restored to its familiar quartet form, Gladys Knight & the Pips began releasing new material. The act enlisted former Motown producers Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson for their first two LPs–About Love (1980) and Touch (1981). During this period, Knight kicked a gambling addiction to the game baccarat.While still with The Pips, Knight joined with Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John on the 1986 AIDS benefit single, “That’s What Friends Are For” which won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. In 1989, Gladys Knight recorded the title track for the James Bond movie Licence to Kill, a top 10 hit both in the UK, reaching #6, and Germany.In 1987, Knight decided to pursue a solo career, and she and the Pips recorded their final LP together, All Our Love (1987), for MCA Records. Its lead single, “Love Overboard”, was a successful hit and won a third Grammy for the act as well. After a successful 1988 tour, the Pips retired and Knight began her solo career. Gladys Knight & the Pips were inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Knight’s third solo LP, Good Woman, was released featuring the songs “Men” and “Superwoman”, written by Babyface and featuring Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle who also collaborated on “I Don’t Do Duets”, a duet from LaBelle’s album Burnin’.Her fourth solo LP, Just for You, went gold and was nominated for the 1995 Grammy Award for Best R&B Album. In 1992 Vernon Ray Blue II, choir master of the year asked Gladys to record his first single “He Lifted Me”Knight joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1997. She had occasionally teased LDS Church president, the lateGordon B. Hinckley, that his flock needs to inject some “pep” into their music. Knight created and now directs the Mormon-themed choir Saints Unified Voices. SUV has released a Grammy Award-winning CD titled One Voice, and occasionally performs at LDS church firesides.

In 2005, Knight and Ray Charles duetted on You Were There” for Charles’ duets album Genius & Friends. In 2008, a duet between Knight and Johnny Mathis was released on Mathis’ album A Night to Remember. Knight is ranked number eighteen on VH1 network’s list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock. In the spring of 2008, Knight appeared alongside Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle and Diana Ross at the ‘Divas with Heart’ concert in aid of cardiac research, at New York’s Radio City Hall.In 2008 Gladys, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller performed on American Idol to raise money for charity. In March 2010,Randy Jackson mentioned on a new episode of the same show that he is back in the studio with Gladys Knight working on a new album.In 2009 Knight sang “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and “The Lord’s Prayer” at the funeral service for Michael Jackson. Recently Knight has released the single “Settle” and a new, updated recording of I (Who Have Nothing).

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