The “Empress of Soul,” Gladys Maria Knight, was born in the United States on May 28, 1944. She won seven Grammys for the tunes she made with her family group The Pips in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. The Pips featured her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight, as well as cousins William Guest and Edward Patten.
Knight has had two number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 (with Dionne Warwick and Sir Elton John) and eleven number-one singles and six number-one albums in the R&B genre. She is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame with The Pips, and she has won a total of seven Grammy Awards (four as a solo artist and three with the group).
The Grammy Hall of Fame recognized the “historical, artistic, and significant” merit of two of her songs: “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” She also sang the Bond theme for the 1989 film Licence to Kill. Knight was named one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers.
How was Gladys Knight’s Early Life?
Knight is the daughter of postal workers Merald Woodlow Knight Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth (née Woods), and she was born in Atlanta. Her older sister Brenda is still alive, and her brothers Merald “Bubba” Jr. and David have both passed away. She was a regular member of the church choir during the 1940s and 1950s.
She first gained some notoriety when, at the age of eight, she won a competition on Ted Mack’s The Original Amateur Hour TV show. As a result of a broken record player during Bubba’s tenth birthday celebration that same year, Gladys, Bubba, Brenda, and their cousins Eleanor and William Guest began performing together.
Elizabeth Knight, Gladys’ mother, soon had the gang of five agree to start a band. They decided to call themselves The Pips after their cousin James “Pip” Woods’ moniker. By 1955, the group began competing on the talent show circuit in their hometown of Atlanta, winning each talent contest they entered.
View this post on Instagram
This accomplishment allowed them to earn a record contract with Brunswick Records in 1957. After two unsuccessful albums with Brunswick, the band broke up. Despite this, the trio was now opening for renowned recording performers such as Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. By the time they had children to think about it, Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest had left the group in 1959, and Brunswick had dumped them. Edward Patten, a cousin, and Langston George, an acquaintance, took their places.
In 1961, they recorded the Johnny Otis–penned “Every Beat of My Heart”. Due to the band’s lack of a record label, the song was promoted by local Atlanta label Huntom Records, which secured a distribution contract with Vee-Jay Records. The members of the band had recently relocated to New York City to try out for a record deal with Fury Records, owned by Bobby Robinson.
Upon finding that “Every Beat of My Heart” was already becoming a hit and cutting the group out of earnings, Robinson had the group re-record the song and re-release it on Fury Records. Both versions made the Billboard charts, with the Huntom/Vee-Jay version reaching number six on the Billboard Hot 100. Changing their identity to Gladys Knight & the Pips was done in preparation for their reissue on Fury Records.
The five-piece group’s 1961 single “Letter Full of Tears” reached the top 40 in early 1962. Langston George quit the group in 1962 after a succession of single releases on Fury Records. That same year, Knight quit the group to establish a family with musician and husband Jimmy Newman.
In 1964, she joined the group again, and they recorded several songs for Larry Maxwell’s Maxx label under Van McCoy’s production, including the singles “Lovers Always Forgive” and “Giving Up” (the latter of which was the original version). Songs like “(There Will Never Be) Another Love,” “Either Way I Lose,” “Go Away, Stay Away,” “Maybe Maybe Baby,” “Stop and Get a Hold of Myself,” “Who Knows,” and “If I Should Ever Fall in Love” are also among their most well-known releases on Maxx.
Is Gladys Knight Sick?
Knight’s publicist has denied that the singer has cancer despite reports that she is suffering from the same condition that killed her close friend and fellow soul star, Aretha Franklin. According to The Detroit News, WDIV, a local television station in Detroit, Michigan, reported that Knight, while attending Franklin’s service at Greater Grace Temple on Thursday, revealed she had “the same illness” as the Queen of Soul. The artist has been mum on the timing of her illness diagnosis.
Nonetheless, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Knight’s representative Jay Schwartz flatly denied that the singer was ill. Schwartz affirmed, “Gladys does not have pancreatic cancer.” “She is fine!” Knight addressed the misunderstanding in an interview with Rolling Stone that was relayed to the magazine by Schwartz.
She continued, “I would like to clarify that Aretha and I discussed both of us having cancer, mine being stage 1 breast cancer and hers being pancreatic. Thank goodness for early detection, which allowed me to avoid cancer altogether. It’s a shame a reporter who failed to get the facts straight ruined a day meant to honor Aretha’s life and her monumental contributions to the globe.
I’d like to thank the Franklins for giving us all the chance to know and love someone so remarkable, and I express my deepest condolences to them all. In a recent interview with Us Weekly, Knight talked about death and dying. “The Lord tells us where we are going and tells us when we are coming,” she said. “So I’m not overly upset about [Franklin’s death], and he knows how much each one of us can bear, and he calls us home with those things in mind. That’s the way I feel about it because he loves us like that.”
The 74-year-old writer goes on to say that she “didn’t want her to suffer” despite missing Franklin. “I really didn’t,” she continued. “And, you know, people could see it. She just kept driving and driving, and she knew it was a disease that would take her out, and she just kept on doing what she does best. So Aretha, safe journey.”
For more such updates do follow us only on Lee Daily