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, R&B and Adult Contemporary, and has triumphed in film, television and live performance.
On October 10th, 2006, Knight treated fans to a new album paying homage to the great legends of song – Ella, Duke, Billie, Lena, and more – on her Verve Records debut, Before Me. The album pays tribute to the many artists who served as Knight’s friends, mentors, colleagues and inspiration throughout her career, and will feature such timeless material as Holiday’s “God Bless the Child,” Horne’s “Stormy Weather,” and Ellington’s “Come Sunday.”
Choosing the subjects was natural for Knight, who says that “these people made great strides not just with their music, but because of who they were as people. I salute these wonderful artists who introduced me to the extraordinary music contained on Before Me!” The album was helmed by Grammy-winning producers Tommy LiPuma and Phil Ramone, who surrounded Knight with the cream of the jazz universe, including the renowned Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
Making this album particularly special is the charity initiative Knight will be launching in collaboration with Ashley Stewart Stores, the leading fashion retailer for full-figured women, called The Ashley Stewart Stores Community Foundation. Ashley Stewart Stores have joined forces with Knight and Verve Records to sell Before Me, with all of the profits from the sale going directly to the foundation, whose primary mission is to provide resources that help individuals and organizations who share a commitment to improving the lives of children, women and people of color through education.
October 26th, 2006, Knight kicked off her new collaboration by performing at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem for The Ashley Stewart Stores Community Foundation Gala, a star-studded evening of entertainment benefiting several charities: Dress for Success; The Boys Choir of Harlem; and The Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund.
October 3rd Knight released her second collaboration with the Saints Unified Voices gospel choir, A Christmas Celebration, an album of holiday classics. Fresh off a “Best Gospel/Choir Album” Grammy win for their debut collaboration, One Voice, Knight again directs 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.
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.” Last summer, Knight also received the BET Lifetime Achievement Award for her influence and accomplishments as a performer in a career spanning over 50 years.
Knight just finished voicing her first animated project, HOLIDAZE, the story of Rusty the Reindeer, Rudolph’s kid brother. She voices ‘Candi,’ a Southern belle bunny rabbit. Audiences will be able to hear Knight in HOLIDAZE this coming holiday season. Her other recent credits include UNBEATABLE HAROLD opposite Dylan McDermott and Henry Winkler, NBC’s “Las Vegas,” former CBS hit “JAG,” the Harrison Ford film HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE, and FOX’s “American Idol” as well as “American Juniors.” Knight also recently ended a critically-acclaimed four-year run performing nightly at the famed Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, which was hailed “the number-one show on the Strip” by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Knight’s solo album At Last won a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album in 2002. During the televised opening ceremonies kicking off the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, she performed the album’s “This is Our Time.”
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, she, along with her brother Bubba, her sister Brenda and her cousins William and Elenor Guest, formed The Pips. 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.”
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.
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. She has been honored by numerous organizations as well, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and B’Nai Brith.
Today, Knight helps oversee her busy career from the Las Vegas headquarters of her personal entertainment corporation. She is a mother, grandmother, performer and a 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.