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Gladys Knight Biography

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Birth Name: Gladys Maria Knight
Born: 1944/05/28
Birth Place: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Years Active: 1952–present
Genres: R&B, Soul

Gladys Knight (born Gladys Maria Knight, May 28, 1944), known as the “Empress of Soul,” is an American 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 and Buddah Records labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips, the most famous incarnation of which also included her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight and her cousins Edward Patten and William Guest.

Knight achieved minor fame by winning Ted Mack's “Original Amateur Hour” TV show contest at the age of seven 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.

The Pips scored their first hit in 1961 with “Every Beat of My Heart,” a cover of a Hank Ballard & The Midnighters song written by Johnny Otis. The Pips recorded a second version of “Every Beat” with Bobby Robinson as the producer, and the song became a #1 R&B and #6 pop hit.

In spite of another hit with 1964's “Giving Up” (later covered by Donny Hathaway), Knight and the Pips did not achieve widespread success until 1966, after signing to Motown Records.

The group's third Motown single was the Top 40 hit “Everybody Needs Love,” released in 1967. Another 1967 single, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” provided a career-making breakthrough. “Grapevine” became a #2 pop hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and a #1 R&B hit for six weeks. The record sold 2.5 million copies, and at the time was Motown's best-selling single ever.

Further hits for the group included “The Nitty Gritty” (1969), “Friendship Train” (1969), one of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong's “psychedelic soul” songs, the #1 R&B “If I Were Your Woman” (1970), and “I Don't Want To Do Wrong” (1971). Their biggest Motown hit was 1972's #1 R&B/#2 pop hit “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye),” which won the 1973 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus. “Neither One of Us” also happened to be one of their last Motown hits, as Knight and the Pips departed Motown for Buddah Records in 1973.

Recording for Buddah in the mid 1970s, the group hit its popular and critical peak with #1 R&B hits such as “I've Got to Use My Imagination,” and “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me.” The most notable hit of their career was the #1 pop hit, “Midnight Train to Georgia,” which won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals of 1973. The song eventually received the Grammy Hall Of Fame Award, which was established by the Recording Academy's National Trustees to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance.

Gladys Knight & the Pips' debut LP on Buddah, “Imagination,” was certified as a gold record. This began a string of LPs that were awarded gold status: “Claudine” (1974), “I Feel a Song” (1974) and “2nd Anniversary” (1975). Other hits for Buddah included “Part-Time Love,” the R&B #1 “I Feel a Song (In My Heart),” “Love Finds Its Own Way” and, culled from a live recording, “The Way We Were/Try to Remember.”

Knight and the Pips continued to have R&B hits until the late 1980s. Knight and the Pips recorded the LP “Visions” (1983), which resulted in a #1 R&B hit with “Save the Overtime (For Me)” and was certified gold. In 1987, Knight and the Pips released their final album, “All Our Love,” on MCA Records which was also certified gold. The album's single “Love Overboard” became a #1 R&B hit which won the 1988 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. In 1988 the band also won a Soul Train Music Award for Career Achievement.

The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1998.