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Q&A: Gladys Knight

Very few singers over the last 50 years have matched Gladys Knight's unassailable artistry.

G.K. Hizer
March 28, 2019

Say what you want, but the breadth of Gladys Knight’s career is undeniable. Some may argue that she has been overshadowed by names like Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross. She boasts a resume that includes 13 No. 1 singles, six No. 1 albums, and seven Grammy Awards, as well as forays into acting and writing, cementing Knight’s place as a legendary performer.

What some people may not realize is how young Knight was when she first tasted success. She initially won Ted Mack’s The Original Amateur Hour in 1952 at the age of 7. That same year, she formed the original incarnation of The Pips with brother Merald, sister Brenda, and cousins William and Eleanor Guest. By 1960, Brenda and Eleanor were replaced by cousin Edward Patten and his friend Langston George and the group recorded its first single, “Every Beat of My Heart” in 1961. By 1962, Gladys Knight and the Pips had their first record deal and released an album.

Fast forward to 2019 and you can be sure that 7-year-old girl never imagined she’d be dubbed the Empress of Soul and have a career that included over 38 albums, international touring, acting roles on film and television, two books, and even a celebrated run on Broadway in Smokey Joe’s Café.

Over the years, however, Knight hasn’t slowed down. She has released two solo albums in the last six years, as well as her first dance track in over 20 years (“Just a Little”), and has another album in the works. Knight has also stayed in the spotlight with television appearances including the 2012 season of Dancing with the Stars, an unexpected turn as Bee in this year’s The Masked Singer (coming in as runner-up to surprise winner T-Pain), and performing the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl LIII.

Knight also led the tribute to her friend and peer, Franklin, at the 2018 American Music Awards, reaching back to her gospel roots and opening the segment with a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” in honor of the beloved soul icon.

When asked by the media about the tribute just after Franklin’s passing, Knight shared, “I am so very honored to have known her since we were both little girls. The fact that her music has been so pure over these years — she touched everybody with her music simply because she chose it with her heart; she didn’t choose anything she didn’t believe. I’m the same way in the industry, so we had those things in common as well. She deserves this recognition, this tribute, and all of these things for being around for this long.”

Although the Pips have long been retired and honored with an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you can be sure that Knight will delve into the group’s catalog of hits when she arrives April 11 in Tulsa for a show at The Joint: Tulsa. Pips staples like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “If I Were Your Woman” are sure to stand next to Grammy-winning singles “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” and signature track “Midnight Train to Georgia.” You can also expect a visit to the ‘80s with one of the Pips’ last big hits, “Love Overboard,” and a rendition of the No. 1 hit that Knight shared with Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Dionne Warwick on “That’s What Friends Are For” (1985).

Gladys Knight
The Joint: Tulsa | Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa
777 W. Cherokee St. | Catoosa
918-384-ROCK (x7625)
April 11: 8 p.m.
Must be 21 or older to attend