Not just known for her Chicken and Waffles, Gladys Knight is a well known R&B artist who has made her mark on the world. She is a native of Atlanta, Ga, born on May 28, 1944. She started her musical journey at a young age singing with her siblings and cousins forming the group known as The Pips. They started to make their mark as a group opening for popular R&B artists in the early 1950’s. After gaining exposure, many record labels saw fit for them at their companies. Motown records saw something special in Gladys Knight, signed her and her family, and renamed their group as Gladys Knight and The Pips, where they recorded their most popular song “Midnight Train to Georgia.” A few years after signing as a group, Gladys Knight decided to take her career further as a solo artist, where she took on the name “Empress of Soul.”
The “Empress of Soul” an American singer, songwriter, actress, author, and seven-time Grammy Award-winner, Gladys Knight was born on May 28, 1944. Born to Merald Woodlow Knight Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth. She started her journey early by winning Ted Mack’s “The Original Amateur Hour” contest in 1952. Her next journey in life was the formation of The Pips which consisted of her, her siblings, and cousins.
Gladys Knight and The Pips started their journey as openers for small artists and after they signed to Motown Records became openers for artists like Diana Ross and The Supremes. Searching for something bigger Gladys Knight and The Pips took their talent to Buddah Records (1973) where they created their Grammy-winning song “Midnight Train to Georgia.” In the 1970’s Gladys and The Pips faced legal issues where they were forced to record as solo artists. This was the spark of Gladys success as a solo artists. She recorded her first solo albums “Miss Gladys Knight (1978 Buddah Records)” and “Gladys Knight (1979 Columbia Records). In 1980 Gladys Knight and The Pips were brought back together under Columbia Records where they began making new music and releasing the hit song “Save the Overtime For Me.” In 1987 Gladys Knight decided to fully pursue her solo career. Gladys Knight and The Pips recorded their final record together “All Our Love” and will forever be remembered in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (1989) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1996).
Gladys Knight had multiple songs and albums that topped R&B charts. Some being “Good Woman”, “Men” and “Just for You.” She has preformed duets with many notable artists such as, Aliyah, Patti labelle, and Jessica Simpson in the VH1’s benefit concert “Divas Live 2004”, along side Ray Charles in a performance of Charles Album Genius & Friends, and again in 2008 along side Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, and Diana Ross in the “Divas with Heart concert.” She sung “His Eye is On The Sparrow” and “The Lord’s Prayer” at the Legendary Michael Jacksons funeral, and recently was asked to perform the national anthem at the LIII Super Bowl. Her becoming a solo artists helped her spread her wings to becoming a musical icon. She goes down in musical history as one who has inspired and continues to inspire many and one whose voice could not be forgotten.
At age 16, Gladys married her first husband Jimmy Newman, and gave birth to two children during their marriage, James and Kenya. Her first marriage ended with her husband dying from drug addiction. She later married, Barry Hankerson and their marriage ended in a custody battle over their son, Shanga. Knight then married a motivational speaker named Les Brown in 1995 until 1997. Alongside her crazy love life, Gladys Knight suffered from a terrible gambling habit that left her in a gambling rehab group. She now lives in Las Vegas with her late husband, William McDowell, and close to two of her children and continues to perform and write books about her life’s journey.
Personally, I love Gladys Knight. Her soulful voice and energetic attitude have been such a blessing to hear. She is a musical icon that has influenced so many, and her legacy will forever live on. In a way, she has been apart of my childhood because my family would have family dinner on some Sundays at her restaurant in Atlanta, Ga. Even now, she still continues to grace people with her voice. She recently was on one of my personal favorite show, “The Masked Singer,” and brought her personality and voice to light up the room. As do all humans, she has some personal flaws in her life that I don’t agree with, but nobody’s perfect. She is a great human being, has done so much, and graced so many people with her presence. All I can say was it was a honor displaying her life’s journey and accomplishments in the project.
“Gladys Knight.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 29 July 2019, https://www.biography.com/musician/gladys-knight.
Kellman, Andy. “Gladys Knight: Biography, Albums, Streaming Links.” AllMusic, https://www.allmusic.com/artist/gladys-knight-mn0000040225.
“Gladys Knight and the Pips.” Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/gladys-knight-and-pips.