Gladys Maria Knight (born
May 28, 1944), known as the Empress of Soul, is an
singer-songwriter, actress, businesswoman,
humanitarian, and author.
She is best known for the hits she
recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both the Motown
labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips
the most famous incarnation of which also included her brother
Merald "Bubba" Knight
and her cousins
and William Guest
. She is a notable
member of The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
born in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of Elizabeth (née Woods) and Merald
Knight, Sr., a postal worker.
She first achieved minor fame
by winning Ted Mack's
Original Amateur Hour TV show
contest at the age of 7 in 1952. The following year, she, her
brother Merald, sister Brenda, and cousins William and Elenor Guest
formed a musical group called The Pips
(named after another cousin, James "Pip" Woods). By the end of the
decade, the act had begun to tour, and had replaced Brenda Knight
and Eleanor Guest with Gladys Knight's cousin Edward Patten and
friend Langston George.
Knight discovered she was pregnant in 1960, and married her high
school sweetheart James Newman. After a miscarriage, Knight
returned to performing with the Pips. In 1961, Bobby Robinson
single "Every Beat of My Heart" for the group, which became a #1
R&B and #6 pop hit when released on Vee-Jay Records
. In 1962, Langston George
left the group, which at that time renamed itself Gladys Knight
& the Pips
and continued as a quartet.
In 1962, after scoring a second hit, "Letter Full of Tears", Knight
became pregnant again and gave birth to a son, Jimmy III, that
year. She retired from the road to raise her child while The Pips
toured on their own. After giving birth in 1963 to a daughter,
Kenya, Knight returned to recording with the Pips in order to
support her family.
Success with The Pips
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
," (also recorded by Marvin
), "Friendship Train" (1969), "If I Were Your Woman"
(1970), "I Don't Want To Do Wrong" (1971), the Grammy Award
One of Us
" (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 Miss 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
" (#1 on the pop and R&B chart), "I've Got to Use My
Imagination," and "You're the Best
Thing That Ever Happened to Me
." In the summer of 1974, Knight
and the Pips recorded the soundtrack to the successful film
. The act was
particularly successful in Europe, and especially the United
Kingdom. However, the Buddah hits all followed a number of years
after their success in the U.S.. 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,
drama set in Alaska. The film failed at the box-office, but Knight
did receive a Golden Globe
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
(1978) on Buddah and Gladys Knight
. Having divorced
James Newman II in 1973, Knight married Barry Hankerson
(future uncle of R&B
), 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
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
for their first two LPs--About Love
(1980) and Touch
(1981). During this period, Knight kicked
a gambling addiction to the game baccarat
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 second
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.
Solo music career
Knight and Ron Winan's Chicken &
Waffles in Atlanta.
While still with The Pips, Knight joined with Dionne Warwick
, Stevie Wonder
, and Elton
on the 1986 AIDS
"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
movie Licence to
a top 10 hit both in the UK, reaching #6, and
Knight's third solo LP, Good Woman
, was released by MCA in
1991. It rose to #1 on the R&B album chart and featured the #2
R&B hit "Men". The album also featured "Superwoman", written by
and featuring Dionne Warwick
and Patti LaBelle
. Knight and LaBelle would
collaborate the same year on "I Don't Do Duets", a duet with Patti
LaBelle 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
. During this period, Knight was briefly
married to motivational speaker Les Brown
. It was also
during this period that her eldest son, Jimmy III, died in his
sleep at the age of 36.
In 1992 Vernon Ray Blue II, choir master of the year asked Gladys
to record his first single "He Lifted Me"
Now married to William McDowell, Knight joined The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
in 1997. She had occasionally
teased LDS Church president
the late Gordon 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
occasionally performs at the LDS church fireside
In 2008, a duet between Knight and Johnny
was released on Mathis' album A Night to
. 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
money for charity.
Michael Jackson Funeral
In 2009 Knight sang "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" and "The Lord's
Prayer" at the funeral service for Michael Jackson
UK Farewell Tour
In October 2009, Gladys started her UK
featured Tito Jackson as her supporting act
and special appearances by Dionne Warwick.
Speaking ahead of the Manchester show, Jackson said: "The UK was a
very special place to my brother Michael and I'm so excited to be
able to pay my respect to his fans here. To be able to do this
whilst supporting our dear friend Gladys is a complete blessing."
On the October 9 concert, his mother Katherine Jackson and his
brother Randy were acknowledged in the audience.
The UK Farewell Tour featured higher production value than previous
"Gladys Knight, a mic and a light" appearances by Gladys in the UK.
A glossy program was available and the show featured pre-produced
animation on large on-stage screens. The tour was promoted by an
appearance on the TV program Later... with Jools Holland
where Gladys performed If I Were
and Help Me Make It Through the
Acting and other work
Knight guest-starred on several television series throughout the
1980s and 1990s ,with roles on Benson
, The Jeffersons
, A Different World
, The Jamie Foxx Show
New York Undercover
1985, she co-starred on the CBS
Charlie & Co.
comedian Flip Wilson
. It lasted for one
season. In April 2009, she made a special guest appearance and
performed a song on Tyler Perry's House of
Knight has also made a number of television cameo
appearances, including Las
, and 30 Rock
Knight's son Shanga owns a chain of chicken and waffles
restaurants based in
Atlanta, bearing her name.Gladys
Knight & Ron Winans' Chicken & Waffles
three locations in the Atlanta area.In 2009, Gladys was featured in
Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad
All By Myself
and performed her song The Need To Be
from the 1974 album I Feel a Song.
Awards, Honors and Achievements
- Grammy Awards
- 1986 Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal -
"That's What Friends Are For" - Dionne
Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight
& Stevie Wonder.
- 2001 Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album - "At Last"
- 2004 Best Gospel Performance - "Heaven Help Us All" - Ray Charles & Gladys Knight.
- 2005 Best Gospel Choir Or Chorus Album - One Voice -
Gladys Knight & The Saints Unified Voices.
- Other awards
- 1992 Gladys Knight was awarded an Essence Award for Career
Gladys Knight was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.
- 1997: Gladys Knight received the Pinnacle Award during 5th
Annual Trumpet Awards presentation in Atlanta, Georgia.
- 2005: Gladys Knight received the Lifetime Achievement Award
from the BET cable
- 2006: Gladys Knight received a Legendary Award from the
Las Vegas Music Awards.
- 2007: Gladys Knight received Image Award for Outstanding Jazz
Artist during The 38th NAACP Image
- 2007: Gladys Knight was declared the "Empress of Soul" and
presented with the 16th Annual Ella Award by the Society of Singers
- 2008: Gladys Knight and Stevie
Wonder were presented with the Best Living Legend Award at the
1st Annual The BET
- 2008: Gladys Knight received the Lifetime Diva Award at the
Stardust Music Awards in March.
- 2008: Gladys Knight was honored by The National Black Arts
Festival and The Coca Cola Company at the 2008 Legends
- 1978: "I'm Coming Home Again" (#54 U.S. R&B)
- 1979: "Am I Too Late" (#45 U.S. R&B)
- 1981: "When a Child Is Born" (with Johnny Mathis) (#74 UK)
- 1985: "That's What
Friends Are For" (with Dionne
Warwick, Elton John & Stevie Wonder) (#1 U.S. Pop, #1 U.S. R&B,
#1 U.S. AC, UK #16)
- 1989: "License to
Kill" (#69 U.S. R&B, #18 U.S. AC, #6 UK)
- 1990: "If I Knew Then What I Know Now" (with Kenny Rogers) (#10 U.S. AC)
- 1991: "Men" (#2 U.S. R&B)
- 1991: "Meet Me in the Middle" (#78 U.S. R&B)
- 1991: "Where Would I Be" (#66 U.S. R&B)
- 1991: "Superwoman" (with Dionne
Warwick & Patti LaBelle)
- 1994: "I Don't Want to Know" (#32 U.S. R&B)
- 1994: "End of the Road" Medley: "If You Don't Know Me by
Now"/"Love Don't Love Nobody" (#76 U.S. R&B)
- 1995: "Next Time" (#30 U.S. R&B)
- 1996: "Missing You"
(with Brandy, Tamia & Chaka Khan) (#25
U.S. Pop, #10, U.S. R&B, #30 U.S. AC)
- 1978: Miss Gladys Knight (#57 U.S. R&B)
- 1979: Gladys Knight (#79 U.S. R&B)
- 1991: Good Woman (#45 U.S. Pop, #1 U.S. R&B)
- 1994: Just for You (#53 U.S. Pop, #6 U.S.
- 1998: Many Different Roads (#21 U.S. Gospel)
- 2001: At Last (#98 U.S. Pop, #30 U.S. R&B)
- 2005: One Voice (with Saints Unified Voices) (#95 U.S.
R&B, #21 U.S. Gospel)
- 2006: A Christmas Celebration (with Saints Unified
Voices) (#155 U.S. Pop, #59 U.S. R&B, #1 U.S. Gospel)
- 2006: Before Me (#93 U.S. Pop, #18 U.S. R&B, #4
- Knight, Gladys. At Home With Gladys Knight,
McGraw-Hill, 2001 - ISBN 1580400752
- Knight, Gladys. Between Each Line of Pain and Glory: My
Life Story, Hyperion Press, 1998 - ISBN 0786883715
- Knight, Gladys. Between Each
Line of Pain and Glory:My Life Story. Hyperion, New York, NY
1997, p. 179.
- 2006 September, Desert Saints Magazine
- Family Business - Gladys Knight co-owner of restaurant in
Atlanta Jet Dec 11, 2000