The great ones endure, and Gladys Knight has long been one of the greatest. Very few singers over the last fifty years have matched her unassailable artistry. This seven-time Grammy winner has enjoyed #1 hits in Pop, Gospel, R&B and Adult Contemporary, and has triumphed in film, television and live performance.
In her first effort since 2013’s “Another Journey” – Knight’s 8th solo effort – this summer marked the release of “Where My Heart Belongs”, a new inspiration gospel album. Knight is a two-time Grammy winner in the gospel category, and “Where My Heart Belongs” dropped on September 9th from Deseret Book, and recently won an NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Gospel Album.”
“Another Journey” enjoyed success from the hit “I Who Have Nothing” as well as the up-tempo track “Settle,” produced by Randy Jackson, with whom she previously collaborated with on her Grammy-winning album, “At Last.” Knight also enjoyed the success of her song “You and I Ain’t Nothin’ No More” which appeared over the end credits of the critically-acclaimed Lee Daniels film THE BUTLER.
Last month, Knight returned to the small screen in the Lifetime original movie “Seasons of Love”. In the story about two lovers as they journey through life, love and family, Knight stars alongside Oscar-nominee Taraji P. Henson and fellow Grammy winner Cliff “Method Man” Smith. In the New Year she will guest on Lee Daniels and FOX TV’s new series “Empire” opposite Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.
Also on the small screen, Knight recently shared her musical expertise on the second season of Centric’s original series “Apollo Live.” Joining judges Doug E. Fresh and Michael Bivins, the legendary songstress gave guidance to contestants as they took the stage with the hope to jumpstart their career in the entertainment industry.
No stranger to performing and light choreography over the course of her career, Knight raised the stakes when she put on her dancing shoes in the spring of 2012. She joined the cast of ABC’s hit reality competition “Dancing with the Stars” for season 14, partnering with Tristan MacManus.
The year of 2011 was a year of much recognition as Knight was both honoring and being honored, first at a Michael Jackson tribute concert, and then at the 2011 Soul Train Awards. At the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Knight joined such performers as Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce, and Smokey Robinson in a tribute to the legendary King of Pop in a concert event called “Michael Forever.” Following that, Knight was honored with a “Legend Award” alongside fellow recipients Earth, Wind & Fire on the BET broadcast of the 3rd annual Soul Train Awards, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer.
Knight, known as the “Empress of Soul,” a longtime Las Vegas resident, returned to the Strip in the late-2000s to the famed Tropicana Hotel for a special engagement that ran in the newly named Gladys Knight Theater, making her the first African-American performer to have a venue named after her in Las Vegas. This followed a successful four-year show run at The Flamingo, which the Las Vegas Review-Journal praised as “the number-one show on the Strip.” A tireless humanitarian, Knight is an iconic supporter of the Boys & Girls Club of America, to which she donated a Randy Jackson-produced song, “The Dream.” As the celebrated singer of the timeless song “Midnight Train to Georgia,” Knight was a natural fit as national spokesperson and host of Amtrak’s National Train Day, the celebration of which took place Washington, DC’s famed Union Station.
In February 2011, Knight reunited with Elton John, Dionne Warwick, and Stevie Wonder for the first time in 25 years to perform their Grammy-winning song, “That’s What Friends Are For” at an AIDS research benefit at the downtown Cipriani in New York. Adored the world over, Knight then toured across the UK, performing at packed arenas that included a sold-out performance at Wembley Stadium.
Knight fans enjoyed Before Me – Knight’s last big commercial effort – which paid homage to the great legends of song – Ella, Duke, Billie, Lena – as well as the many artists who served as Knight’s friends, mentors, colleagues and inspiration throughout her career. Knight’s second collaboration with the Saints Unified Voices gospel choir, A Christmas Celebration, was an album of holiday classics. Coming off of a “Best Gospel/Choir Album” Grammy win with their debut album One Voice, Knight again directed the 100-member multi-cultural choir she formed, injecting their unique flavor and definitive soul into such Christmas staples as “Silent Night,” “White Christmas,” and a medley of “Winter Wonderland/Jingle Bells” among others.
Adding to her already impressive collection, Knight won another Grammy for her duet with the late Ray Charles on his posthumous album Genius Loves Company (2005). The duo won for Best Gospel Performance for their duet “Heaven Help Us All.” Knight’s solo album At Last also won a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album in 2002 and featured a duet with Jamie Foxx, “I Wanna Be Loved.” During the televised opening ceremonies kicking off the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Knight performed “This is Our Time” (which she co-wrote with husband William McDowell), which was featured on a commemorative Olympic album.
A tireless performer who still wows audiences around the country and the world, Knight also finds the time to make forays into film and television. Her version of “I Hope You Dance” played during the end credits of Tyler Perry’s THE FAMILY THAT PREYS TOGETHER, and she appeared in his film I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF (which featured her song “The Need to Be”). She also starred in the holiday-themed HOLIDAZE, her first animated project to which she also contributed a track, UNBEATABLE HAROLD, and the Harrison Ford film HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE. On the small screen, Knight did a cameo on the Emmy-winning NBC hit comedy “30 Rock”, and also appeared in NBC’s “Las Vegas,” former CBS hit “JAG,” and former FOX talent competitions “American Juniors” and “Duets.” She also starred as Jamie Foxx’s mother on “The Jamie Foxx Show.” Knight has appeared as a guest judge on FOX’s smash hit “American Idol,” and has performed in the show’s always star-studded finale. In season two of “Idol,” Knight famously dubbed eventual winner Ruben Studdard the ‘Velvet Teddy Bear” while she sat in the guest judge’s chair.
Georgia-born, Knight began performing gospel music at age four in the Mount Mariah Baptist Church and sang as a guest soloist with the Morris Brown College Choir. Three years later, she won the grand prize on television’s “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour,” and the following year, her mother Elizabeth Knight created the group consisting of Gladys, her brother Bubba, her sister Brenda and her cousins William and Elenor Guest.
They called themselves The Pips in honor of their cousin/manager, James Pip Woods. In 1959, Brenda and Elenor left the group, replaced by cousin Edward Patten and friend Langston George. The group was renamed Gladys Knight & The Pips, and following George’s departure in 1962, the classic line-up was in place.
The group debuted their first album in 1960, when Knight was just sixteen. With Knight singing lead and The Pips providing lush harmonies and graceful choreography, the group went on to achieve icon status, having recorded some of the most memorable songs of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Top 20 hits, like “Every Beat of My Heart,” “Letter Full of Tears,” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “If I Were Your Woman,” set the stage for an amazing run in the mid-1970s, with Top 10 gold-certified singles like “Neither One of Us (Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye),” “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” “Best Thing to Ever Happen to Me” and the #1 smash “Midnight Train to Georgia” established Gladys Knight and The Pips as the premiere pop/R&B vocal ensemble in the world. The party kept rolling with hits like “On and On” from the Academy Award nominated soundtrack of Curtis Mayfield’s “Claudine,” the 1974 comedy about love in the inner city. Knight enjoyed another #1 hit in 1985 when she teamed with Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Dionne Warwick on “That’s What Friends are For.” She and Stevie Wonder sang together again for the successful Frank Sinatra Duets II album, joining his voice for the song “For Once in My Life” in 1994.
All told, Knight has recorded more than 38 albums over the years, including four solo albums during the past decade: “Good Woman” (1991); “Just for You” (1994); the inspirational “Many Different Roads” (1999); and “At Last” (2001). “At Last” showed the world that she still has what it takes to record a hit album, employing the talents of contemporary producers like Randy Jackson, Gary Brown and James D.C. Williams III, Jon John, Jamey Jaz, Keith Thomas, Tom Dowd and Tiger Roberts.
Her involvement in other creative undertakings, business ventures and humanitarian activities has been extensive, and has brought her honors from industry and community alike. In 1986, she produced and starred in the Cable Ace Award-winning “Sisters in the Name of Love,” an HBO special co-starring Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle. That same year, she showcased her acting ability when she co-starred with Flip Wilson in the CBS comedy “Charlie & Co.” Other acting roles followed on such TV shows as “Benson,” “The Jefferson’s” and “New York Undercover,” and in such television films as “Pipe Dreams,” “An Enemy Among Us” and “Desperado.” She recorded the title theme for the James Bond movie “License to Kill” (1989). In 1999, she completed a starring run on Broadway in the smash musical hit “Smokey Joe’s Café.”
In 1995, Knight earned her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the next year, Gladys Knight & The Pips were inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Knight published an autobiography, “Between Each Line of Pain and Glory” (a line taken from her million selling recording “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me”), in 1997, and the next year, she and The Pips were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. In 2004, Knight received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the annual BET Awards ceremony.
A humanitarian and philanthropist, Knight has devoted to various worthy causes, including the American Diabetes Association – for which she is a national spokesperson, the American Cancer Society, the Minority AIDS Project, amFAR and Crisis Intervention, and The Boys and Girls Club. She has been honored by numerous organizations as well, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), B’Nai Brith, and is a recent recipient of BET’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Today, Knight and husband William, along with various other members of the family, oversee her busy career from the Las Vegas headquarters of Shakeji, Inc., her personal entertainment corporation. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, performer, restaurateur, and businesswoman with a spiritual outlook on her life. Her faith in God has been the driving force behind all of Knight’s endeavors, guiding her through her many successes.
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