Gladys Maria Knight is an American Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, actress, and humanitarian. She was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 28, 1944, to Sarah and Merald Knight Sr. and began singing in church as a child. At age seven, she gained minor fame after winning a performance contest on the televised “Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour.” In 1953 Knight, her brother Merald Jr., her sister Brenda, and their cousins Eleanor and William Guest formed a musical act called The Pips. Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest both left the group to get married and were replaced by Edward Patten and Langston George. By 1960 The Pips had begun to perform and tour on a regular basis.
Knight and The Pips first experienced major success after signing with Motown Records in 1966 and began touring with The Supremes as an opening act. While at Motown, Knight and The Pips produced several major hits including, “I Heard It through the Grapevine,” “If I Were Your Woman,” and “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye).” She was responsible for sending the Jackson 5’s first demo tape to Motown Records after seeing them perform at “Amateur Night” at the Apollo Theater in August of 1967.
In 1973 Knight and The Pips left Motown Records and signed with Buddah Records and enjoyed major success with several top-charting hits including “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “On and On,” “Ive Got to Use My Imagination,” and “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.” Knight and The Pips continued to produce major hit songs until the late 1980s. Her humanitarian work includes her collaboration with Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder in 1986 for the iconic AIDS benefit anthem “That’s What Friends Are For.”
Knight decided to branch out and pursue a solo career in 1989. Throughout the 1990s, Knight continued to tour and record successful R&B and gospel music. In 1996 Gladys Knight and The Pips were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio. Additionally, Knight has been honored with numerous Grammy Awards, American