Gladys Knight booking
Born in Georgia in 1944, Gladys Knight began singing with her siblings at age 8, calling themselves
“the Pips.” The group opened for R&B legends in the 1950s, then headed to Motown and crossed over
to pop music. As Gladys Knight and the Pips, they recorded their signature song, “Midnight Train to
Georgia.” Knight left the Pips behind in 1989, and continued to perform and record as a solo artist.
Today, she’s known fondly as the “Empress of Soul.”
Talented singer and actress Gladys Knight was born Gladys Maria Knight on May 28, 1944, in Atlanta,
Georgia, and started out on the road to success at an early age. She made her solo debut at the age
of 4, singing at the Mount Mariah Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Not long after, she won a prize
for her performance on the televised Ted Mack Amateur Hour. In 1952, an 8-year-old Knight formed
“the Pips” with her brother and sister, Merald (“Bubba”) and Brenda, and two cousins, Elenor and
William Guest (another cousin, Edward Patten, and Langston George later joined the group, after
Brenda and Elenor left to get married; George left by 1960). With young Gladys supplying the throaty
vocals and the Pips providing impressive harmonies and inspired dance routines, the group soon
earned a following on the so-called “Chitlin Circuit” in the South, opening for popular acts such as
Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.
While their first single, “Whistle My Love,” was released by Brunswick in 1957, the Pips didn’t score a
bona fide hit until they began recording with Motown Records in the 1960s, where they were teamed
with songwriter/producer Norman Whitfield. In 1967, the Pips’ version of Whitfield’s “I Heard it Through
the Grapevine”—later a huge hit for Marvin Gaye—crossed over from the rhythm and blues charts to
the pop charts. Their popularity increased with the success of singles like “Nitty Gritty,” “Friendship
Train” and “If I Were Your Woman,” combined with touring performances with the Motown Revue and
numerous TV appearances. Knight and the Pips left Motown in 1973 for Buddah Records, a subsidiary
of Arista (the group later took Motown to court for unpaid royalties). Ironically, their last Motown single,
“Neither One of Us Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye,” became the Pips’ first No. 1 crossover hit
and a Grammy winner for Best Pop Vocal Performance in 1973.
The group—now known officially as Gladys Knight and the Pips—was riding higher than ever during
the mid-1970s with a smoother, more accessible sound, a hit album, Imagination (1973) and three
gold singles: “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” and the
Grammy Award-winning No. 1 hit “Midnight Train to Georgia” (Best R&B Vocal Performance). In 1974,
the group recorded the soundtrack for the film Claudine, with songs written by Curtis Mayfield; the
soundtrack album spawned the hit single “On and On.” Their next album, I Feel a Song (1975),
included Knight’s hit version of Marvin Hamlisch’s “The Way We Were,” also popularized by Barbra
Streisand; the album’s title track became a No.1 soul hit.
Knight and the Pips hosted their own TV special in the summer of 1975, and in 1976, Knight made an
appearance in the film Pipe Dreams, for which she and the Pips also recorded the soundtrack album.
She later co-starred opposite comedian Flip Wilson on the 1985-86 sitcom Charlie & Co. Due to legal
problems with Buddah, Knight and the Pips were forced to record separately in the last years of the
1970s, although they continued performing together in live gigs. After signing a new contract with
Columbia, the group released three reunion albums during the early 1980s, About Love (1980), Touch
(1982) and Visions (1983), scoring hits with such singles as “Landlord” (produced by the ace
songwriting team Ashford and Simpson), “Save the Overtime for Me” and “You’re Number One”.
Moving to MCA Records in 1988, Knight and the Pips released their final album together, All Our Love,
which included the Grammy-winning single “Love Overboard.” The next year, Knight left the Pips to
launch a solo career, recording the title song for the James Bond film Licence to Kill (1989) and the
album A Good Woman (1990), which featured guest stars Dionne Warwick and Patti Labelle.Throughout the 1990s, Knight continued to tour and record, producing the successful 1994 album Just
For You and earning acclaim for her consistently strong vocals and hardworking performance style. In
addition to her musical career, she also acted in a recurring role on the 1994 TV series New York
Undercover. Knight has also appeared on Living Single and JAG. On the big screen, she had a role in
Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself in 2009. While no longer a chart-topping success, Knight,
known fondly today as the “Empress of Soul,” has continued to make records. She once stated, “Since
I’ve been so wonderfully blessed, I really want to share and to make life at least a little better. So every
chance I get to share the gospel or uplift people, I will take full advantage of that opportunity.” Knight
collaborated with the the Saints United Voices for her 2005 gospel album One Voice, which did well.
Knight’s 2006 album Before Me also received a warm reception.
In 2012, Knight decided to take on another kind of role by joining the cast of Dancing with the Stars,
the popular television competition, and strutting her stuff against the likes of actress Melissa Gilbert,
actor Jaleel White and TV personality Sherri Shepherd.
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