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Knight, Gladys 1944–

Gladys Knight 1944

Vocalist, actress

At a Glance

The Early Days

Hit the Charts

Temporary Separation

On Her Own

Late Life Ventures

Selected discography

Selected writings

Sources

Acclaimed female vocalist Gladys Maria Knight was born May 28, 1944 in Atlanta, Georgia to Merald, Sr. and Elizabeth (Woods). Both of Gladyss parents were singers in the Wings Over Jordan gospel choir. Raised in a family which valued education and the sounds of gospel music, Gladys began singing gospel music at the Mount Moriah Baptist Church and had her first recital published there in 1948 when she was four-years-old. Gladys then toured southern churches with the Morris Brown Choir of Atlanta, Georgia from 1950 through 1953, performing recitals at local churches and schools. By age seven, with her mothers encouragement, Gladys appeared on Ted Macks The Original Amateur Hour in 1952, where she won the first prize of $2,000 for singing Nat King Coles Too Young. In 1952, Gladys entertained her family by singing with ten-year-old brother Merald (known as Bubba), sister Brenda, and cousins William and Elenor Guest at Bubbas 10th birthday party. Another cousin, James Pip Woods later suggested that they turn professional and he lent them his nickname, whereafter the Pips were formed. The Pips sang at supper clubs during the week and in church on Sundays.

Gladys periodically left the group, but firmly rejoined them in 1964, whereafter the group released numerous successful hits and recordings through the 1980s. By 1957, the group had expanded to include cousins Edward Patten and Langston George along with Gladys, Bubba and William Guest, though sister Brenda Knight and cousin Elenor Guest had left the group to be married. By 1960, Langston George left the group, leaving the quartet which comprised Gladys Knight and the Pips through the 1980s.

Knight, who graduated from Shaw University with honors, was married in the 1960s and had two children, James and Kenya. Eventually divorced, she later married Barry Hankerson in October of 1974 whom she divorced by 1979. The couple had one son from this marriage, Shanga-Ali. Since then, Knight wed once again, this time to Les Brown, whom she married on August 29, 1995the couple is now separated and plan to divorce. In 1997, Jimmy Newman, Knights son and current manager, is now 35-years-old, while daughter Kenya is 34, and her youngest son, Shanga, is 21-years-old.

At a Glance

Born Gladys Maria Knight, May 28, 1944, Atlanta, GA; daughter of Merald, Sr. and Elizabeth (Woods); married in 1960s, divorced, children: James and Kenya; married Barry Hankerson, 1974, produced son, Shan-ga-Ali, divorced, 1979; married Les Brown, 1995, divorced. Education: graduated Shaw Univ. (w/honors)

Recording artist for Brunswick 1957-61; Fury, 1961-62; Everlast, 1963; Maxx and Bell, 1964-66; Motown, 1966-73; Buddah, Capitol, Columbia, and MCA, 1973-88. Albums with the Pips include: Letter Full of Tears (1961); Gladys Knight and the Pips (1964); Everybody Needs Love (1967; Feelin Bluesy (1968); Silk N Soul (1968); Nitty Gritty (1969); All In A Knights Work (1970); Greatest Hits (1970); If I Were Your Woman (1971); Standing Ovation (1971); Neither One of Us (1973); All I Need Is Time (1973); Imagination (1973); Knight Time (1974); Claudine (1974); I Feel A Song (1974); Anthology (1974); A Little Knight Music (1975); Second Anniversary (1975); The Best of Gladys Knight and the Pips (1975); Bless This House (1976); Pipe Dreams (1976, film soundtrack); Still Together (1977); Gladys Knight and the Pips 30 Greatest Hits (1977); The One and Only (1978); About Love (1980); Touch (1981); That Special Time of Year (1982); Visions (1983); The Collection20 Greatest Hits (1984); Life (1985); All Our Love (1988); The Singles Album (1989); and 17 Greatest Hits (1992). Solo albums include: Miss Gladys Knight (1979); Good Woman (1991); and Just for You (1994).

TV appearances include: co-starring role in Charlie & Co., 1985; Pipedreams, 1975; produced and appeared in HBO film Sisters in the Name of Love, 1986; role of Natalie, nightclub owner, on New York Undercover, 1994; Living Single, role of Overtons mother, 1997; The Wayans Brothers, role of Jamie Foxs mother, 1997.

Selected awards: Six gold singles; one gold album; one plantinum album; six Grammy awards; other awards include Clio, AGVA, NAACP Image, Billboard, Rolling Stone, Amer. Music Awards.

Addresses: Officec/o Shakeji, Inc., 2700 East Sunset Rd., Ste. 31 D, Las Vegas, NV, 89120-3506; AgentWilliam Morris Agency, 2700 Sunset Rd., Ste. 310, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

The Early Days

Gladys Knight and the Pips toured nationally with Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke before Knight was 13, but their 1957 recording debut with Brunswick went nowhere. In 1960, the group produced their first Rhythm and Blues (R & B) Top-20 hit in 1961 with a version of Johnny Otiss Every Beat of My Heart, which attracted national attention, moving to #6 of the R & B charts in July of 1961. George Langston retired from the group in the early sixties after two more singles, including Letter Full of Tears, a top 20 hit in 1962. The group faltered somewhat in the early 1960s, as Knight had two children and the Pips did studio back-ups. Once reunited as a quartet, the group was known mostly to R & B fans, with little connection to a mass audience until the mid-sixties. Although the group signed a long-term deal with Fury Records, sealing their R & B credentials, their success halted when they switched to the Maxx label in 1964.

Hit the Charts

The groups breakthrough began tentatively in 1966, when Gladys Knight and the Pips signed to Motowns subsidiary, Soul, teaming with producer/songwriter Norman Whitfield. As the group began their rise to prominence, Knights grainy alto vocals left them slightly out of the mainstream at first. By December of 1967, however, the group released their major hit single, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, which became a Motown standard, reaching #2 on the Billboard charts, where it remained for three weeks. The song remains a classic to date. Numerous hits followed successfully including, The Nitty Gritty, Friendship Train, and If I Were Your Woman, which became one of the labels biggest selling releases in 1970. Also in 1970, Knight used her influence to help the Jackson 5 become discovered. While Knight wrote to label owner Berry Gordy suggesting that he check them out, credit for the groups discovery is sometimes mistakenly given to Diana Ross.

In the early 1970s, Gladys Knight and the Pips moved slowly toward a middle-of-the-road harmony which contributed to their success in 1972 with Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Good-Bye). By 1973, the group left Motown and signed with Buddah records, just as the Weatherly-penned Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) mounted the charts to become the #2 hit during March of that year. The group attributed their label switch to a lack of support from Motown since moving its operations from Detroit to Hollywood. At Buddah, Knight and the Pips met with instant success as their popularity peaked. Their first album released with Buddah was Imagination, their biggest selling album to date. Not only did the album go gold, but it also produced three gold singles, Midnight Train to Georgia; Ive Got To Use My Imagination; and Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me. Although contracted with Buddah, Motown continued to release albums by Gladys Knight and the Pips, which the group claims they never received royalties for, including the single Neither One of Us.

Also in 1974 the group performed on Curtis Mayfields soundtrack for the film Claudine, which included the hit single, On and On. The following year, the title track of I Feel A Song yielded yet another #1 soul hit. The group successfully continued singing with a smoother approach, as evidenced by The Way We Were/Try to Remember, which became the centerpiece for their Second Anniversary album in 1975. During this same year, the group hosted their own U.S. television series and, the following year, Knight made her acting debut in Pipedreams, for which the group recorded a soundtrack. The subject of this film involved love among the Alaskan oil pipelines.

Temporary Separation

Despite the groups growing success, legal problems ensued for the remainder of the decade as a result of their attempted label switch to Columbia, coupled with a previous unsettled suit by Motown. Because of these legal proceedings, Knight was not allowed to record with the Pips for three yearsthough they sang together live). During this time, she recorded a solo album and the Pips released two albums on Casablanca. Because of their inability to record together, the groups popularity waned. An out of court settlement in 1980, however, resulted in a new contract for Knight and the Pips through 1985. Once reunited on Columbia, the group rapidly regained their former status with All About Love and the #3 R & B hit, Landlord, produced by one of the most enduring songwriting teams, Ashford and Simpson.

In November of 1982, the group performed with a variety of musicians at the first Jamaican World Music Festival in Montego Bay. Following this, Knight recorded the Grammy award winning gold single Thats What Friends Are For with Dionne Warwick and Elton John in support of Aids in 1986. The album Visions also produced a hit single, Save the Overtime and subsequent releases alternated between R & B and middle of the road tunes, where Knights group demonstrated their ability in each genre. In 1988, the title cut of the groups Love Overboard album became their biggest selling single in decades. This song earned them a Grammy award in early 1989 for the best R & B performance.

On Her Own

Following the release of Love Overboard and its Grammy recognition, Knight and the Pips broke up to pursue different career paths, though brother Bubba stayed on as her road manager, who thereafter achieved a United Kingdom Top Ten hit with the James Bond theme song, License to Kill. Knight states that Bubba had always handled the business affairs of the Pips in addition to being a musician with the group.

On November 8, 1989, Knight performed without the Pips at Constitution Hall with David Peaston, a newcomer, and the pair performed incredible duets. The set was dominated by popular soul singles of the 1980s and enhanced by Knights gospel roots. She then released an album in late 1991, Good Woman, featuring guest stars Patti Labelle and Dionne Warwick. This recording proved that Knight and her colleagues still have what it takes to compete with younger female vocalists such as Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Karyn White. Knights Good Woman album was consistent, with its major song, Superwoman performed by Knight, LaBelle and Warwick. Knight also performed another successful duet with David Peaston entitled, Give Me A Chance. Her gritty, compelling voice is not her only talent, as she helped to write some of the albums more substantial songs, including the emotional ballad, Waiting on You, inspired by the Persian Gulf War.

In March of 1992, Knight toured again without the Pips, backed by a ten piece ensemble where she again performed to a full house at Constitution Hall. She has earned a good deal of respect as a fabulous singer and performer who relates one-on-one with her audience. While Knight has proven her solo success with her recent album, Good Woman, she does not hesitate to perform former hits released with the Pips, including I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Midnight Train to Georgia, and Every Beat of My Heart. The audience loves these old favorites and Gladys Knight proves, both with and without the Pips, that she has the enduring power of song.

Again performing at Constitution Hall in early 1993, Knight continued to perform hits from her former Pips days, which evoked a strong audience response. Knight infuses soul, gospel, and pop with enormous feeling and energy and is accompanied by a seven piece instrumental section and three singers. During this 1993 concert, she performed the previously recorded AIDS anthem, Thats What Friends Are For along with hits by Smokey Robinson and the Staple Singers. In mid-spring of that year, Knight appears for the first time in public as a couple with Les Brown, known for his motivational lectures and best-seller Living Your Dreams, at a 65th birthday celebration for poet Maya Angelou. The party was hosted by Oprah Winfrey, renowned talk show hostess. Brown, a highly acclaimed speaker who lectures nationwide and appears on PBS specials, was a divorced, single parent of 14 years. Brown says that she is everything in his life, believing he has found his soulmate. Of Les Brown, Knight says, Hes my heart, according to Jet magazine.

By the end of 1994, Knight was still happy with her relationship with Brown, as well as being a secure diva. She was secure about her talent, her accomplishments, her future plans, and her successful album, Just For You. Though pressured in the past to perform a certain type of music for audience appeal, Knight says she did not do so with this album because she was beyond worrying about competing for charts, believing that it suppresses creativity. Celebrating her 40th anniversary in show business with this album, Knight says the title refers to the people she performs for, those family members and fans who have always been there, as well as her latest fans. In addition to her merit as a vocalist and songwriter, she continued to prove successful in her recurring role as Natalie, a nightclub owner, on televisions New York Undercover. Knight spoke freely about her career and the music industry in general, claiming that todays music scene is heavily influenced by the music of the past, with over 60% of records being remakes, including certain rap groups which utilize remakes.

Late Life Ventures

Knight is involved in a number of successful business ventures outside of her music career, including being spokeswoman for Aunt Jemima pancake products, for whom she has featured in a commercial with her own grandchildren. She takes insult to those who have insinuated that she hurts the black cause through such advertisement, as she has always loved and helped the black population. Knight emphasized that she pitched for Aunt Jemima because she values the products, not the money derived from advertising. She further recalled when she refused to perform in South Africa during the height of apartheid even though she was offered four times the amount of money she makes from Aunt Jemima commercials. Some of Knights other ventures include joining her daughter Kenya Love in 1995 to open a celebrity bakery in Las Vegas called Kenyas Cakes of the Stars. Additionally, Knight supported American Greeting card companys Birthday Song Writing Contest which is a national search for an original happy birthday greeting in song form.

Knight made an appearance at Constitution Hall in March of 1995, which is now an annual event; she performed from her latest album, Just For You. Her gospel-trained voice is described as possessing gritty stubbornness on this album, which includes songs entitled, Next Time, and I Dont Want To Know. Knight acknowledged her African American feminism in Guilty and stated in the Washington Post that, There are two strikes against me when I come up to bat: one strike for being female, one strike for being black. Highlights of Just for You include If You Dont Know Me By Now, Love Dont Love Nobody, and End of the Road, previously recorded by other artists. According to a reporter who attended the 1995 Constitution Hall concert, Knight remained possessed of an instantly identifiable voice, smooth and raspy, like sand in honey, with her signature vocal catch somewhere between a chuckle and a sob, according to The Washington Post. She performed this 1995 concert in front of another sold-out crowd, as she has long been an icon of pop-soul royalty, known for her generosity toward young singers. Knight performed with background vocalists and her own trio of singers, never oversinging, always passionate, yet relaxed. Her audiences remain fond of former Pips hits and sing along with her in concerts to famous tunes such as Midnight Train to Georgia.

In May of 1995, Knight received the Whitney M. Young Award from John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League. John Mack says that Knight is, a very caring, decent human being. Gladys is a superstar off stage and on. She hasnt forgotten from whence she came, according to Jet. The 22nd annual black tie dinner commemorating this event was held at the Century Plaza Hotel and raised nearly $700,000 for numerous employment and educational programs supported by the Urban League.

To further add to Knights happiness in her later years, she and Brown, wed in a private ceremony in Las Vegas. When Knight performed her 1994 hit, Youre Number One (In My Book) at the American Black Achievement Awards, she was referring to Brown. The couple were a constant twosome during their three year engagement, which led to their wedding one another on August 29, 1995 at a private ceremony in a Las Vegas chapel. Knight and Brown, both previously married were very happy together. Knight explained that they just happened to meet one night at Chicagos Regal Theatre and hit it off immediately. Unfortunately, the couple has since divorced. She told Ebony, I thought he was on the same spiritual plane that I was. But, it turns out he was on a difference plane.

The crowning glory of Knights incredible achievements were realized in New York on January 17, 1996, at the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom. Here, the 11th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony included the long-due induction of Gladys Knight and the Pips, having 48 years in show business, 43 of which were with the Pips. Knight and the Pips were inducted by popular vocalist Mariah Carey, who recalled, sneaking a radio under the bed covers to listen to a singer as real as it gets. All she has to do is stand there and sing and shell blow you away, according to the Washington Post. By 1996, even though Knight felt that the music industry and radio stations ignore veteran recording stars in favor of recent singers, she continued to have a large following who admired her music and treasure her songs.

One of the most prolific groups in the history of American rhythm and blues and pop music, Gladys Knight and the Pips made national charts for the first time in 1961 and were there consistently until the group disbanded, with 55 chart entries in all. Following is a chronological listing of most of their recordings, with those receiving 11+ weeks coverage marked with an asterisk.

Selected discography

Every Beat of My Heart (Vee jay)

Letter Full of Tears (Fury)

Giving Up (Maxx)

Lovers Always Forgive (Maxx)

Everybody Needs Love (Soul)

I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Soul)

The End of the Road (Soul)

It Should Have Been Me (Soul)

I Wish It Would Rain (Soul)

Didnt You Know (Soul)

The Nitty Gritty (Soul)

Friendship Train (Soul)

You Need Love Like I Do (Soul)

If I Were Your Woman (Soul) *

I Dont Want to Do Wrong (Soul)

Make Me the Woman that You Go Home To (Soul)

Help Me Make It Through The Night (Soul)

Neither One Of Us (Soul) *

Daddy Could Swear, I Declare (Soul)

Where Peaceful Waters Flow (Buddah)

All I Need Is Time (Buddah)

Midnight Train To Georgia (Buddah) *

Ive Got To Use My Imagination (Buddah) *

Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (Buddah)*

On and On (Buddah) *

Between Her Goodbye and My Hello (Buddah)

I Feel A Song (Buddah)

Love Finds Its Own Way (Buddah)

The Way We Were/Try To Remember (Buddah)

Money (Buddah)

Part Time Love (Buddah)

Make Yours A Happy Home (Buddah)

So Sad the Song (Buddah)

Baby Dont Change Your Mind (Buddah)

Sorry Doesnt Always Make It Right (Buddah)

The One and Only (Buddah)

Its a Better Than Good Time (Buddah)

Landlord (Columbia)

Taste of Bitter Love (Columbia)

Bourgie Bourgie (Columbia)

Forever Yesterday

If Thatll Make You Happy

I Will Fight

A Friend of Mine

Save the Overtime

Youre Number One

Hero

When Youre Far Away

My Time

Keep Givin Me Love

Till I See You Again

Send It To Me

Love Overboard (MCA Records)

Lovin On Next to Nothin (MCA Records)

Its Gonna Take All Our Love (MCA Records)

Selected writings

Between Each Line of Pain and Glory, Hyperion, 1997.

Sources

Books

African American Almanac, 6th edition, Gale Research, 1994, 7th edition, 1995.

Bronson, Fred, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard Publications, New York, 1985, p. 347.

Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: 1995 to Present, p. 159.

The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, volume 1, second edition, ed. by Colin Larkin. Guinness Publishing, Middlesex, 1995, volume 3, 1995, pp. 2342-2343.

The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Jon Pereles and Patricia Romanowski, editors. New

The Story of Rock n Roll: The Year-By-Year Illustrated Chronicle, Paul Du Noyer, consulting editor. Schirmer Books: New York, 1995, pp. 95, 115, 193.

Periodicals

Ebony, October 6, 1997, pp. 58-63.

Jet, May 15, 1995, p. 40; July 29, 1996, p. 61; November 27, 1995, pp. 58-60; November 7, 1994, pp. 56-59; April 19, 1993, pp. 56-58.

Washington Post, November 9,1989, p. Fl7; October 23,1991, p. B7; March 23,1992, p. D12; February 27, 1993, p. D8; March 31, 1995, p. WW13; April 3, 1995, p. D4; January 18, 1996, p. C1.

Marilyn Williams

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Knight, Gladys

Gladys Knight

Singer

Gladys Knight is a female vocalist best known for her work with the rhythm and blues group Gladys Knight and the Pips, but she has sustained her musical career through the course of more than four decades.

Knight was born into a musical career. Her parents were singers in the Wings Over Jordan gospel choir. She began singing gospel music at the Mount Moriah Baptist Church and had her first recital in 1948. Gladys then toured southern churches with the Morris Brown Choir of Atlanta, Georgia from 1950 through 1953, and she also performed in recitals at local churches and schools. By age seven, with her mother's encouragement, Gladys appeared on Ted Mack's "The Original Amateur Hour" in 1952, where she won the first prize of $2,000 for singing Nat King Cole's "Too Young."

In 1952, Gladys entertained her family by singing with ten-year-old brother Merald (known as "Bubba"), sister Brenda, and cousins William and Elenor Guest at Bubba's 10th birthday party. Another cousin, James "Pip" Wood later suggested that they turn professional. He lent the group his nickname to The Pips. They sang at supper clubs during the week and at church on Sundays.

Gladys Knight and the Pips toured nationally with Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke before Gladys was 13, but their 1957 recording debut with Brunswick went nowhere. By then, the group expanded to include cousins Edward Patten and Langston George along with Gladys, Bubba and William Guest; Brenda Knight and Guest had left the group to be married. In 1960, the group produced their first Rhythm and Blues (R&B) Top-20 hit in 1961 with a version of Johnny Otis's "Every Beat of My Heart," which attracted national attention and moved to number six on the R&B charts in July of 1961.

George Langston retired from the group in the early 1960s after two more singles, including "Letter Full of Tears," a top 20 hit in 1962. The group faltered somewhat in the early 1960s, as Gladys had two children and the Pips recorded as back up singers in the studio. When Langston left the group, it became a quartet – Gladys Knight and the Pips. Gladys had periodically left the group, but firmly rejoined them in 1964.

Once reunited as a quartet, the group was known mostly to R&B fans, with little connection to a mass audience until the mid-sixties. Although the group signed a long-term deal with Fury Records, thus solidifying their R&B credentials, their success halted when they switched to the Maxx label in 1964.

Classic Hits with the Pips

The group's breakthrough began tentatively in 1966, when Gladys Knight and the Pips signed to Motown's subsidiary, Soul. They were teamed with producer/songwriter Norman Whitfield. Knight's grainy alto vocals left them slightly out of the mainstream at first. By December of 1967, however, the group released their major hit single, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," which became a Motown standard, reaching number two on the Billboard charts, where it remained for three weeks. The song remains a classic to date. Numerous hits followed successfully including, "The Nitty Gritty" (1968), "Friendship Train" (1969), and "If I Were Your Woman," which became one of the label's biggest selling releases in 1970.

Also in 1970, Gladys Knight used her influence to help the Jackson 5 become discovered. Knight wrote to label owner Berry Gordy suggesting that he check out the group, however, credit for the group's discovery is sometimes mistakenly given to Diana Ross.

In the early 1970s, Gladys Knight and the Pips moved slowly toward a middle-of-the-road harmony which contributed to their success in 1972 with "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)." By 1973, the group left Motown and signed with Buddah records, just as the Weatherly-penned "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)" was climbing the charts. It became the number two hit in March 1973. The group attributed their label switch to a lack of support from Motown after its relocation of operations from Detroit to Hollywood. At Buddah, Knight and the Pips met with seemingly instant success and popularity. Their first album released with Buddah was Imagination, their biggest selling album to date. Not only did the album go gold, but it also produced three gold singles, "Midnight Train to Georgia"; "I've Got To Use My Imagination"; and "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me." Although contracted with Buddah, Motown continued to release albums by Gladys Knight and the Pips, for which the group claims they never received royalties. This includes the single "Neither One of Us."

Knight Made Her Film Debut

Also in 1974 the group performed on Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack for the film Claudine, which included the hit single, "On and On." The following year, the title track of I Feel A Song yielded yet another number one soul hit. The group successfully continued singing with a smoother approach, as evidenced by "The Way We Were/Try to Remember," which became the centerpiece for their Second Anniversary album in 1975. During this same year, the group hosted their own American television series and, the following year, Gladys made her acting debut in Pipedreams, for which the group recorded a soundtrack. The subject of this film involved love among the Alaskan oil pipelines.

For the Record …

Born Gladys Maria Knight on May 28, 1944, in Atlanta, GA; daughter of Merald, Sr. and Elizabeth (Woods); married in 1960s (divorced); married Barry Hankerson, 1974, (divorced, 1979); married Les Brown, 1995 (divorced, circa 1997); married William McDowell, April 12, 2001; children: James (deceased), Kenya, Shanga-Ali. Education: Graduated from Shaw University with honors.

Vocalist, lyricist, and producer. Morris Brown Choir, singer, 1950-53: member of Gladys Knight and the Pips, 1953-90; Lloyd Terry Jazz Ltd., jazz vocalist, 1959-61; solo artist, 1990–.

Awards: Blues and Soul magazine, Top Female Vocalist, 1972; Grammy Awards, Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus (with The Pips) for "Midnight Train to Georgia," 1973; Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus (with The Pips) for "Neither One of Us," 1973; Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (with Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder) for "That's What Friends Are For," 1986; Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus (with The Pips) for "Love Overboard," 1988; Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album for At Last, 2001; other awards include Clio, AGVA, NAACP Image, Ebony Music, Cashbox, Billboard, Record World, Rolling Stone, Ladies Home Journal, American Music Award (with Pips); inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1996.

Addresses: Office—c/o Shakeji, Inc., 2700 East Sunset Rd., Ste. 31 D, Las Vegas, NV 89120-3506. Record company—MCA Records, Universal Music Group, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404.

Despite the group's growing success, legal problems ensued for the remainder of the decade as a result of their attempted label switch to Columbia, coupled with a previous unsettled suit by Motown. Because of these legal proceedings, Gladys was not allowed to record with the Pips for three years—though they sang together live. During this time, Gladys recorded a solo album and the Pips released two albums on Casablanca. Because of their inability to record together, the group's popularity waned. An out of court settlement in 1980, however, resulted in a new contract for Knight and the Pips through 1985. Once reunited on Columbia, the group rapidly regained their former status with All About Love and the R&B hit, "Landlord," produced by one of the most enduring songwriting teams, Ashford and Simpson.

First Solo Release Was a Hit

In November of 1982, the group performed with a variety of musicians at the first Jamaican World Music Festival in Montego Bay. Following this, Gladys recorded the Grammy award winning gold single "That's What Friends Are For" with Dionne Warwick and Elton John in support of AIDS in 1986. The album Visions also produced a hit single, "Save the Overtime" and subsequent releases alternated between R&B and middle of the road tunes, where Knight's group demonstrated their ability in each genre. In 1988, the title cut of the group's Love Overboard album became their biggest selling single in decades. This song earned them a Grammy award in early 1989 for the Best R&B Performance.

Following the release of "Love Overboard" and its Grammy recognition, Knight and the Pips broke up to pursue different career paths. Bubba had always handled the business affairs of the Pips in addition to being a musician with the group. He served as road manager for Knight. She had her first hit as a solo act in the United Kingdom top ten hit with the James Bond theme song, "License to Kill."

Knight first performed without the Pips at Constitution Hall on November 8, 1989, with newcomer David Peaston, and the pair performed incredible duets. The set consisted of popular soul singles of the 1980s and also included songs from Knight's gospel roots. Knight then released an album in late 1991, Good Woman, featuring guest stars Patti LaBelle and Dionne Warwick. This recording proved Knight and her colleagues still could compete head-to-head with younger female vocalists such as Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Karyn White. Good Woman was consistent, with its major song, "Superwoman" performed by Knight, LaBelle and Warwick. Knight also performed another successful duet with David Peaston entitled "Give Me A Chance." Knight also contributed to writing several songs on the album, including the emotional ballad, "Waiting on You," said to have been inspired by the Persian Gulf War.

Gladys Knight has had as busy a personal life as a professional career. She graduated from Shaw University with honors, was married in the 1960s and had two children, James and Kenya. Eventually divorced, Gladys later married Barry Hankerson in October of 1974; they divorced in 1979. The couple had one son from this marriage, Shanga-Ali.

In 1993, Knight began appearing in the company of Les Brown, well known for his motivational lectures and best-selling book Living Your Dreams. Brown, a highly acclaimed speaker who lectures nationwide and appears on PBS specials, was a divorced, single parent. Brown said in subsequent interviews that in Gladys, he believed he had found his soulmate. Knight said of Brown, "He's my heart," according to an interview with Jet magazine.

Knight eventually wed Brown on August 29, 1995. They divorced in 1997. She and William McDowell, a spa manager whom she had met in 1990, married April 12, 2001.

In a 2003 interview with Jet, she addressed her latter marriages, saying that her marriage to Brown, "made me realize what kind of man I didn't want. It really was a lesson. I don't regret it. I don't regret any decisions I've made in my life." Knight says that although she and McDowell have a considerable age different, she is very happy. "He is everything I've prayed for. I knew what I need in a relationship this time. I finally grew up." Although he once worked as a spa administrator, he is know involved in Knight's business concerns and sells real estate.

Alhough pressured in the past to perform certain types of music to cater to audiences, Knight said she refused to worry about that or about competing for chart placement for this recording. In her opinion following those dictates suppresses creativity. With this album, Knight celebrated her 40th anniversary in show business. She says the title refers to those people for whom she performs—family members and fans who have always been there, as well as her latest fans. In addition to her career as a vocalist and songwriter, Knight continued to prove successful as an actress. She had a recurring role as Natalie, a nightclub owner, on the television series New York Undercover.

Business Ventures

Knight has been continually involved in a number of successful business ventures outside of her music career. This includes a period as spokeswoman for Aunt Jemima pancake products, for which she was roundly criticized. In response, Knight said she lends her celebrity to the product because she values the products, not the money derived from advertising. As a example, Knight said she refused to perform in South Africa during the height of apartheid. The fee would have been four times the amount of money she made from Aunt Jemima commercials.

Some of Knight's other ventures included joining her daughter Kenya Love in 1995 to open "Kenya's Gourmet Bakery" in Las Vegas. She was instrumental in the opening of Gladys Knight and Ron Winan's Chicken & Waffles, the Atlanta-based fast-casual restaurant chain she founded in 1997. Among her other business ventures has been the launching of Many Different Roads, a recording label founded by Knight. The label is reportedly open to artists of any genre, so long as they don't use profanity.

Another important cause to which she lends her celebrity is diabetes awareness. She established the American Diabetes Association Elizabeth Knight Fund, named for her mother who died from complications from the disease in 1998, to raise funds for the nonprofit organization. She also frequently speaks on the topic at seminars and published a cookbook designed with dietary issues, including diabetes, in mind.

In May of 1995, Knight received the Whitney M. Young Award from John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League. John Mack said that Knight is "… a very caring, decent human being. Gladys is a superstar off stage and on. She hasn't forgotten from whence she came," according to Jet. The 22nd annual black tie dinner commemorating this event was held at the Century Plaza Hotel and raised nearly $700,000 for numerous employment and educational programs supported by the Urban League.

The crowning glory of Knight's incredible achievements thus far occured in 1996, when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—an honor some contended was long overdue after 48 years as an entertainer. Knight and the Pips were inducted by popular vocalist Mariah Carey, who recalled "sneaking a radio under the bed covers to listen to a singer as real as it gets. All she has to do is stand there and sing and she'll blow you away," according to the Washington Post. By 1996, even though Knight felt that the music industry and radio stations ignore veteran recording stars in favor of contemporary, younger singers, she continued to have a large following who admired her music and treasure her songs.

Knight has maintained a close relationship with her adult children. Jimmy Newman, Knight's son and long-time manager, died in his sleep in 1996; Kenya, her daughter became Knight's manager after Newman's death; her youngest son, Shanga-Ali Hankerson, is head of operations for Gladys Knight and Ron Winan's Chicken & Waffles, the Atlanta-based fast-casual restaurant chain Knight founded in 1997. She also has 11 grandchildren, at least one of whom has performed with her.

After her divorce from Brown in 1997, Knight converted to the Mormon religion. She has been very active and visible in church functions and is very vocal about her religious beliefs. She, for example, credits her faith as well as her family with helping support her after Jimmy's death.

She continued to perform on stage and record. At Last was released in 2001. At the time, it had been six years since her last recording apart from a gospel album. She produced the alnum with the assistance of her then 16-year-old grandson, Rishawn Newman. The album won a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album in 2001.

She signed a contract to perform at the Flamingo Las Vegas after the success of that album. Knight said the fit was perfect, especially she has been based in Las Vegas for many years. "I was looking for the perfect engagement to allow myself the chance to travel less, and this couldn't have come at a better time," she told Jet."I … am blessed that the Flamingo Las Vegas has given me this golden opportunity." The show, which featured her own hits as well as other Motown classics, became one of the top drawing shows on the strip and her contract was extended four years beginning in 2003.

What's more, Knight shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. She remained active in her career and her businesses, in her church life, in her community, and in her family and personal life.

Selected discography

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine," Motown, 1967.

"Neither One of Us (Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye)," Motown, 1973.

Imagination, Buddah, 1973.

I Feel a Song, Buddah, 1975.

About Love, Columbia, 1980.

Visions, Columbia, 1983.

All Our Love, MCA, 1988.

Soul Survivors: The Best of Gladys Knight & the Pips (compilation), Rhino, 1990.

Good Woman, Universal, 1991.

Just for You, MCA, 1994.

Midnight Train to Georgia (compilation), BMG Special, 1997.

Many Different Roads , Many Roads, 1998.

Soulfully Yours (compilation), Hallmark, 1999.

At Last, MCA, 2000.

The Early Times of Gladys Knight & the Pips (compilation), Orpheus, 2002.

Platinum & Gold Collection (compilation), Buddha, 2003.

Sources

Books

African American Almanac, 6th edition, Gale Research, 1995.

Bronson, Fred, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard Publications, New York, 1985.

Du Noyer, Paul, editor, The Story of Rock 'n' Roll: The Year-By-Year Illustrated Chronicle, Schirmer, 1995.

Larkin, Colin, editor, The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, second edition, Guinness Publishing, 1995.

Pereles, Jon, and Patricia Romanowski, editors, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 1983.

Periodicals

In Style, February 1, 2002.

Jet, May 15, 1995, p. 40; July 29, 1996, p. 61; November 27, 1995, pp. 58-60; November 7, 1994, pp. 56-59; April 19, 1993, pp. 56-58; January 12, 1998; July 19, 1999; August 2, 1999; February 7, 2000; July 10, 2000; March 5, 2001; February 18, 2002; March 3, 2003.

Nation's Restaurant News, January 12, 2004.

The Washington Times, April 14, 2001.

Washington Post, November 9, 1989, p. F17; October 23, 1991, p. B7; March 23, 1992, p. D12; February 27, 1993, p. D8; March 31, 1995, p. WW13.

Online

"Gladys Knight," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 9, 2004).

—Marilyn Williams andLinda Dailey Paulson

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Knight, Gladys 1944–

Gladys Knight 1944–

Singer

Gladys Knight is an R&B vocalist whose enduring career has spanned more than five decades and reached the highest levels of commercial and critical success. She rose to fame during the 1960s and '70s as the lead singer of Gladys Knight and the Pips, with whom she recorded such hit songs as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Together Gladys Knight and the Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. In announcing Knight's selection as the 2007 recipient of the Ella Award, president Jerry F. Sharell of the Society of Singers praised Knight's artistry, calling her resonant alto “one of the greatest and most distinctive voices of our time.”

Gladys Knight was born May 28, 1944, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Merald and Elizabeth Knight, singers who performed in a gospel choir. Knight began singing at the Mount Moriah Baptist Church as a young child and had her first recital there in 1948 when she was four years old. With the Atlanta-based Morris Brown Choir, Knight toured the South from 1950 through 1953, performing at churches and schools. She appeared on the television talent show Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour in 1952, where she won the first prize of $2,000 for singing Nat King Cole's “Too Young.” That same year Knight, her brother Merald (known as “Bubba”), sister Brenda, and cousins William and Eleanor Guest performed together at a family party. Another cousin, James “Pip” Woods later suggested that they turn professional, and he lent them his nickname: the group became known as the “Pips.” By 1957 the Pips included cousins Edward Patten and Langston George, but Knight was the only female remaining after her sister Brenda and cousin Eleanor each left the group to get married. George exited the group as well in 1960, leaving the quartet that comprised Gladys Knight and the Pips through the 1980s: Gladys Knight, Bubba Knight, William Guest, and Edward Patten.

The Pips sang at supper clubs during the week and in church on Sundays. They toured nationally with Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke before Knight was thirteen years old, but their 1957 recording debut with Brunswick went nowhere. In 1960 the group produced their first Top 20 hit with a version of Johnny Otis's “Every Beat of My Heart,” which attracted national attention, moving to #6 on the R&B charts in July of 1961. The group faltered somewhat during the early 1960s as Knight married and had two children; the Pips continued to work singing studio backing vocals for other artists. Once reunited as a quartet, the group was known mostly to R&B fans, with little connection to a mass audience until the mid-sixties.

Recorded Hit Songs with the Pips

The group's breakthrough began in 1966, when Gladys Knight and the Pips signed to Motown's subsidiary, Soul, teaming with producer/songwriter Norman Whitfield. As the group began their rise to prominence, Knight's grainy alto vocals left them slightly out of the mainstream at first. By December of 1967, however, the group released their major hit single, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which became a Motown standard, reaching #2 on the Billboard charts, where it remained for three weeks. Numerous hits followed, including, “The Nitty Gritty” (1968), “Friendship Train” (1969), and “If I Were Your Woman,” which became one of the label's biggest selling releases in 1970.

During the early 1970s Gladys Knight and the Pips moved slowly toward a middle-of-the-road harmony which contributed to their success in 1972 with “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Good-Bye).” By 1973 the group left Motown and signed with Buddah records, just as “Neither One of Us” mounted the charts to become the #2 hit during March of that year. The group attributed their label switch to a lack of support from Motown after it relocated its operations from Detroit to Hollywood. At Buddah, Knight and the Pips met with instant success as their popularity peaked. Their first album released with Buddah was Imagination, their biggest selling album to date. Not only did the album go gold, but it also produced three gold singles: “Midnight Train to Georgia” (#1 in 1973), “I've Got to Use My Imagination” (#4 in 1974), and “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” (#3 in 1974).

Also in 1974 the group performed on Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack for the film Claudine, which included the hit single, “On and On.” The following year, the title track of I Feel a Song yielded yet another #1 soul hit. The group successfully continued singing with a smoother approach, as evidenced by “The Way We Were/Try to Remember,” which became the centerpiece for their Second Anniversary album in 1975. During this same year, the group hosted their own U.S. television series and, the following year Knight made her acting debut in Pipe Dreams, for which the group recorded a soundtrack. The subject of this film involved romance set among the Alaskan oil pipelines.

Despite the group's growing success, legal problems ensued for the remainder of the decade as a result of their attempted label switch to Columbia, coupled with a previous unsettled suit by Motown. Because of these legal proceedings, Knight was not allowed to record with the Pips for three years—though they sang together live. During this time, Knight recorded a solo album, and the Pips released two albums on Casablanca. Because of their inability to record together, the group's popularity waned. An out of court settlement in 1980, however, resulted in a new contract for Knight and the Pips through 1985. Once reunited on Columbia, the group rapidly regained their former status with All About Love and the #3 R&B hit, “Landlord.”

At a Glance …

Born Gladys Maria Knight, May 28, 1944, in Atlanta, GA; daughter of Merald and Elizabeth (Woods) Knight; married James Newman, 1960 (divorced), married Barry Hankerson, 1974 (divorced, 1979), married Les Brown, 1995 (divorced, 1997), married William McDowell, 2001; children: James and Kenya (first marriage), Shanga-Ali (second marriage). Education: Shaw University, graduated (with honors).

Career: Recording artist and performer, 1957—. Actor in television programs, including Pipe Dreams, 1975; Charlie & Co., 1985; Sisters in the Name of Love, HBO, 1986; New York Undercover, 1994; Living Single, 1997; and The Wayans Brothers, 1997.

Selected awards: Grammy Awards, 1973, 1974, 1987, 1989, 2002, 2005, 2006; Billboard award, Ebony Music award, Ladies' Home Journal award, and Rolling Stone award, all 1975; American Music Awards, 1975, 1976, 1984, 1989; Heritage Award and Soul Train Music Award, 1988; NAACP Image Award, 1989; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1996; BET Lifetime Achievement Award, 2006; Las Vegas Music Awards, Legendary Award, 2006; Ella Award, Society of Singers, 2007.

Addresses: Office—c/o Shakeji, Inc., 2700 East Sunset Rd., Ste. 31D, Las Vegas, NV 89120-3506. Agent—William Morris Agency, One William Morris Pl., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

In November of 1982 the group performed with a variety of musicians at the first Jamaican World Music Festival in Montego Bay. Following this, Knight recorded the Grammy Award-winning gold single “That's What Friends Are For” with Dionne Warwick and Elton John in support of AIDS research and prevention. The album Visions also produced a hit single, “Save the Overtime (For Me)” and subsequent releases alternated between R&B and pop ballads, where Knight's group demonstrated their ability in each genre. In 1988 the title cut of the group's Love Overboard album became their biggest selling single in more than a decade. This song earned them a Grammy Award in early 1989 for the Best R&B Performance.

Embarked on Solo Career

Following the release of “Love Overboard” and its Grammy recognition, Knight and the Pips broke up to pursue different career paths, though brother Bubba stayed on as road manager for Knight. As a solo artist she achieved a Top Ten hit in the United Kingdom with the James Bond theme song “License to Kill” and released the album Good Woman in 1991. The album featured the emotional ballad “Waiting on You,” cowritten by Knight and inspired by the Persian Gulf War. Guest performances on the disc included by Warwick, Patti Labelle, and David Peaston, with whom Knight performed the duet “Give Me a Chance.”

Knight's decades of achievement were recognized in New York on January 17, 1996, at the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom, when she and the Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As reported in the Washington Post at the induction ceremony the vocalist Mariah Carey recalled, “sneaking a radio under the bed covers to listen to a singer as real as it gets. All [Knight] has to do is stand there and sing and she'll blow you away.”

In 1999 Knight released the album Many Different Roads, which featured inspirational and traditional Christian music and debuted at #23 on Billboard's Top 40 gospel chart. The album was the first release from the newly formed Many Roads label, which was created by Knight's son Jimmy Newman Jr. in 1998. Shortly after the release of Many Different Roads, Newman died unexpectedly in his sleep at the age of thirty-seven. Knight's album release was overshadowed by the loss of her son, and she withdrew from the public to spend time with her family.

When Knight returned to the studio in 2000 she went back to her roots, recording an album of traditional pop/R&B but with modern production and help from some of the industry's rising talent. Her 2001 release At Last contained a collection of R&B classics reimagined through modern production. Knight brought young producers onboard to help her capture a contemporary sound and released a duet single with up-and-coming R&B singer and actor Jamie Foxx. The album reached #98 on Billboard's Top 200 album chart and remained on the charts for weeks. Shortly after the release of her album, Knight married William McDowell, a corporate consultant and longtime friend whom she had begun seeing romantically in early 2001.

Returned to Gospel Roots

Knight's triumphant return to R&B won her a 2002 Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Album and showed that she was still able to hold her own in the modern music industry. While she was touring and performing selections from her newest release, Knight was also busy organizing her next venture, as leader and musical director of the Saints Unified Voices (SUV) Choir. Knight organized the 100-member choir as a way to support the Church of Latter Day Saints, which she had joined in 1997. By 2003 Knight and the SUV Choir were touring the gospel circuit and winning critical praise for their performances.

Knight teamed with R&B legend Ray Charles to record a live version of “Heaven Help Us All,” which won the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance. In August of the same year, Knight was awarded Black Entertainment Television's Lifetime Achievement Award. At the award ceremony, a variety of artists performed in tribute to Knight and her contribution to African-American music and culture. Also in 2005 Knight and the SUV released their first album, One Voice, to critical acclaim. The album remained in the Billboard charts for over fifty weeks, and in 2006 Knight received her seventh Grammy Award for Best Gospel Choir. With a best-selling album, Knight's transition to musical director marked another success in her already illustrious career. Knight's list of accolades continued to grow as she received the 2006 Legendary Award at the Las Vegas Music Awards and the Ella Award in 2007 from the Society of Singers.

Knight has been involved in a number of successful ventures outside of her music career, including acting in television series and joining her daughter, Kenya, in opening a celebrity bakery in Las Vegas. She lends her support to philanthropic causes, particularly diabetes education and research. From her start as the lead singer of one of the most popular and prolific R&B groups of the Motown era through an accomplished solo career to director of a Grammy Award-winning choir, Knight has proven herself to be a star with staying power and the ability to adapt and evolve. As an artist, singer, and songwriter, Knight helped to define African-American music in the twentieth century and remains one of music's leading ladies.

Selected Works

Books

Between Each Line of Pain and Glory: My Life Story, Hyperion, 1997.

At Home With Gladys Knight, American Diabetes Association, 2001.

Albums

Letter Full of Tears, Collectables, 1961.

Gladys Knight & the Pips, Sphere Sound, 1964.

Everybody Needs Love, Motown, 1967.

Gladys Knight, Columbia, 1967.

Feelin' Bluesy, Motown, 1968.

Silk & Soul, Motown, 1968.

Nitty Gritty, Motown, 1969.

All in a Knights Work, Soul, 1970.

If I Were Your Woman, Motown, 1971.

Standing Ovation, Motown, 1971.

That Special Time of Year, Columbia, 1971.

Help Me Make It Through the Night, Motown, 1973.

Gladys Knight & the Pips, Trip, 1973.

Imagination, Pair, 1973.

Neither One of Us, Motown, 1973.

All I Need Is Time, Motown, 1973.

Knight Time, Soul, 1974.

Claudine, Buddah, 1974.

I Feel a Song, Buddah, 1974.

A Little Knight Music, Soul, 1975.

How Do You Say Goodbye, Springboard, 1975.

I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Pickwick, 1975.

Pow, Pickwick, 1975.

Pipe Dreams, Buddah, 1976.

Take Me in Your Arms, MFP, 1976.

Bless This House, Buddah, 1976.

Still Together, Buddah, 1976.

Love Is Always on Your Mind, Buddah, 1977.

The One and Only, Buddah, 1978.

Gladys Knight, Columbia, 1979.

Miss Gladys Knight, Buddah, 1979.

Memories, Buddah, 1979.

Gladys Knight & the Pips, Up Front, 1979.

Spotlight, PRT, 1980.

About Love, Columbia, 1980.

Take Me Back, Manhattan, 1980.

Nightful, Manhattan, 1980.

First Shot, Manhattan, 1980.

Funky, Manhattan, 1980.

Touch, Columbia, 1981.

Visions, Columbia, 1983.

Life, Collectables, 1985.

All Our Love, MCA, 1988.

Every Beat of My Heart, Chameleon, 1989.

Christmas Album, Special Music, 1989.

Good Woman, MCA, 1991.

Just for You, MCA, 1994.

Midnight Train to Georgia (compilation), BMG Special, 1997.

Many Different Roads, Many Roads, 1998.

At Last, MCA, 2000.

The Early Times of Gladys Knight & the Pips (compilation), Orpheus, 2002.

Platinum & Gold Collection (compilation), Buddha, 2003.

One Voice, Mormon Tabernacle, 2005.

Before Me, Verve Records, 2006

Christmas Celebration, Many Roads, 2006.

Singles

“Every Beat of My Heart,” 1960.

“Letter Full of Tears,” 1962.

“I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” 1967.

“The Nitty Gritty,” 1968.

“Friendship Train,” 1969.

“If I Were Your Woman,” 1970.

“Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Good-Bye),” 1972.

“Midnight Train to Georgia,” 1973.

“Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” 1974.

“I've Got to Use My Imagination,” 1974.

“On and On,” 1974.

“Landlord,” 1980.

(With Dionne Warwick and Elton John) “That's What Friends Are For,” 1986.

“Love Overboard,” 1987.

“Save the Overtime (For Me),” 1988.

“License to Kill,” 1989.

(With David Peaston) “Give Me a Chance,” 1991.

Sources

Books

African American Almanac, 7th edition, Gale Research, 1995.

Bronson, Fred, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard Publications, 1985.

The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, second edition, ed. Colin Larkin, Guinness Publishing, 1995.

The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, ed. Jon Pereles and Patricia Romanowski, Rolling Stone Press, 1983.

Periodicals

Business Wire, July 14, 1999.

Jet, April 19, 1993, pp. 56-58; November 7, 1994, pp. 56-59; May 15, 1995, p. 40; November 27, 1995, pp. 58-60; July 29, 1996, p. 61.

Rolling Stone, March 2001.

Washington Post, November 9, 1989, p. F17; October 23, 1991, p. B7; March 23, 1992, p. D12; February 27, 1993, p. D8; March 31, 1995, p. WW13; April 3, 1995, p. D4; January 18, 1996, p. C1; April 17, 2007.

Online

Gladys Knight Official Web Site, http://gladysknight.com/ (accessed January 30, 2008).

“Gladys Knight,” Verve Music Group, http://www.vervemusicgroup.com/artist/default.aspx?aid=6939 (accessed January 30, 2008).

Saints Unified Voices Choir, http://www.suvchoir.org/ (accessed January 30, 2008).

—Marilyn Williams and Micah L. Issitt

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Knight, Gladys

Gladys Knight

Singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Of all the voices in the pop pantheon, one of the richest, warmest and most comforting belongs to Gladys Knight. Knights husky, raw honey vocals are full of heat and miles deep. From the beginning, Knights was a strikingly seasoned voice, dark and smokey, intense but contained, more glowing than explosive. Vince Alettis praise for the vocal power of Gladys Knight is only one of the many such descriptions that she has received over her more than thirty years of performing and recording with the Pips. Together, Gladys Knight and the Pips are one of the classic R&B and crossover groups whose sound has grown in popularity from the heyday of Motown in the early 1960s to the present day.

Born in Alabama in 1944, Gladys Knight was a gospel singer from childhood. Her debut was made at the Mount Mariah Baptist Church in Atlanta at the age of four. She was a prize winner on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour in 1952, singing popular solos. The Pips were invented when she joined with her bother Merald (Bub-ba) and cousin William Guest to perform at a family party. Knight told the New York Times that their first professional engagement was singing Canadian Summer and In the Still of the Night at a Y.M.C.A. tea. They performed pop music as the Pips, opening for such soul stars are Sam Cooke, and maintained the gospel audience by singing as the Fontaineers. Their first single, Whistle My Love, was released by Brunswick in 1957. Their first hit, Every Beat of My Heart, although reaching the Top 20 Rhythm and Blues chart, was pirated and earned them no money.

Knight told Ebony that her status as lead vocalist developed by accident, but theirs was a contemporary sound in the early 1960s, when male and female close harmony groups were popular. The creative dance routines and exquisite harmonies of the Pips evolved in time, along with Knights own voice, influenced by the song stylists whom she heard on recordings. In a 1983 interview in the New York Times, she defended the unified sound of the group: Throughout our career, people have tried to break us up. Because my voice is out front most of the time, they tend to want to separate that personality. But we know differently. People dont know why the picture is being painted so beautifully. One reason is that the background voicesthe oohs and ahs against the powerful lines Im singingwork on the subconscious. They make the picture complete.

In 1965, Gladys Knight and the Pips (by now Merald Knight, William Guest, and their cousin Edward Patten) joined Motown Records, home of the black close harmony sound. They soon began a string of successes for the R&B and crossover markets with such songs as Just Walk in My Shoes, I Heard It Through the

For the Record

Full name, Gladys Maria Knight; born May 28, 1944, in Atlanta, Ga. ; daughter of Merald, Sr., and Elizabeth (Woods) Knight; married Barry Hankerson, October, 1984; children: (previous marriage) Kenya, James; (second marriage) Shanga. Education: Graduated from high school.

Made singing debut at age four at Mt. Mariah Baptist Church, Atlanta, Ga.; toured with Morris Brown Choir, 1950-53, and performed at numerous recitals at local churches and schools; member of vocal group Gladys Knight and the Pips (originally known as just the Pips), 1953; began recording 1957; has toured throughout the world, and has made a number of television appearances.

Awards: Two Grammy Awards; NAACP Image Award; numerous awards from magazine readers polls.

Addresses: Office c/o MCA Records, 445 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022. Agent Sidney A. Seidenberg, 1414 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.

Grapevine, and The End of the Road. Touring with the Motown Revue, along with television appearances, helped bring the unique performance style of Knight and the Pips to the general audience.

Unhappy with their status at Motown (which then featured the Supremes, the Temptations, and Marvin Gaye), they switched to Buddah records at the conclusion of their contract. Ironically, their final Motown recording, Neither One of Us, became their first number-one crossover hit single. The mid-1970s was a period of personal triumphs for the group, which had a hit album, Imagination, four gold singles, Midnight Train to Georgia (1973s number 1), Imagination, On and On, and Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me. They won Grammy awards for Neither One of Us (Best Pop Vocal) and Midnight Train (Best R&B Vocal Performance). I Feel a Song, although not as succesful as Imagination, featured a performance of the Oscar- and Grammy-winning Marvin Hamlisch song, The Way We Were, putting Knight in direct competition with Barbra Streisand. Knights version reached number 11, despite the tremendous publicity campaign for Streisands single and the soundtrack album. The group was featured on a television special on NBC in the summer of 1975.

Contractual problems between Buddah and Columbia Records forced Knight and the Pips to record separately in the late 1970s, although they continued to perform together in person. Their reunion albums, About Love (1980), Touch (1982), and Visions (1983), produced a new string of hit singles, among them Landlord, Save the Overtime for Me, and Youre Number One. They currently record for MCA, which released their album All Our Love and most recent hit single, Love Overboard.

Knight has acted in films, such as Pipe Dreams (1976), and on television, including a season as Flip Wilsons wife on the comedy series Charlie and Company (CBS, 1985-1986). She has also produced television musical specials, among them the highly acclaimed Sisters in the Name of Love (HBO, 1986), which featured the voices of Patti LaBelle and Dionne Warwick.

The continuity of the Pips is unique as both a back-up group and a close-harmony trio. Their voices mesh perfectly, and the rhythm that they maintain on stage with their dance routines is perceptible even on recordings. Although Knight and the Pips record music by a variety of artists, many of their songs have lyrics by Pip William Guest. He told Ebony his feelings about the groups image: We dig being funky, but we will never exploit that to the point of lewd bumps and grinds. Our roots are in our culture, so thats where our future lies.

The group tours constantly in the United States and Europe. Despite their unquestioned popularity around the world, Gladys Knight and the Pips have always been considered an act that was unable to reach its full professional potential. An article in Rolling Stone, for example, asked in its sub-head Why cant [Gladys Knight] score with a mainstream audience? The recordings she made with the Pips that were in direct competition with other artists seem to bear out her claim that they were not allowed to cross over as did Marvin Gayes Heard It Through the Grapevine. Their continuing success, however, makes their fans hope that they, at least, will be able to continue buying recordsno matter how they are marketed.

Selected discography

I Heard It Through the Grapevine (single), Motown, 1967.

Neither One of Us [Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye] (single), Motown, 1973.

Imagination (includes Midnight Train to Georgia, Imagination, and Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me), Buddah, 1973.

I Feel a Song (includes The Way We Were), Buddah, 1975.

About Love (includes Landlord), Columbia, 1980.

Visions (includes Save the Overtime for Me and Youre Number One), Columbia, 1983.

All Our Love (includes Love Overboard), MCA, 1988.

Sources

Ebony, June 1973; November 1980.

New York Times, October 7, 1983; April 29, 1978.

Rolling Stone, June 30, 1988.

Barbara Stratyner

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