License to Kill
Formerly known as Gladys Knight & The Pips, singer Gladys Knight burned up the UK charts with the titular theme song of the James Bond movie License to Kill (1989). Knight, who previously joined in the AIDS benefit single “That’s What Friends Are For” (1986, won a Grammy Award), hit the music scene with the Grammy-winning albums At Last (2002) and One Voice (2005, with Saints Unified Voices). The recipient of the 2005 BET Lifetime Achievement Award also received another Grammy for her gospel single with Ray Charles, “Heaven Help Us All” (2005).
With The Pips, Knight collected two Grammy Awards, one for their single “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (1972) and another for their song “Midnight Train to Georgia” (1973). Branching out to acting, the artist was seen in the drama Pipe Dreams (1976), the short-lived sitcom “Charlie and Co” (1985, starred as Diana Richmond) and Hollywood Homicide (2003).
Knight received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 1995 and became an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as Gladys Knight & the Pips) in 1996. In 2005, the artist was ranked number eighteen in the Guinness Book of World Records’ “Most Successful Female Musical Artists of All Time” list.
The member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was addicted to gambling during the late 1980s. She was even near bankruptcy before finally seeking help in Gamblers Anonymous.
Knight was formerly married to James Newman (1960-1964, had 2 children), Barry Hankerson (marriage ended in 1979, had 1 child) and Les Brown (1995 - 1997). She is now the wife of William McDowell, whom she married in 2001.
Girl with a Strong Voice
Childhood and Family:
On May 28, 1944, Gladys Maria Knight was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to Merald Woodlow Knight and Sarah Elizabeth Woods. Exhibiting her powerful singing voice, Gladys won a talent contest on TV when she was only seven.
A year later, along with brother Merald Bubba Knight, sister Brenda, and cousins William and Elenor Guest, Gladys set up a musical group called The Pips. Later, when the band began touring, Brenda and Elenor Guest were replaced by other cousins: Langston George and Edward Patten.
During her early years with The Pips, Gladys married James Newman in 1960, with whom she has two children, son Jimmy, Jr. and daughter Kenya. After separating in 1964, Gladys married producer Barry Hankerson. After their divorce in 1979, the couple fought over custody of their son, Shanga Ali. The singer next had a two-year marriage with motivational speaker Les Brown (1995 - 1997) before tying the knot with William McDowell (April 12, 2001 - present).
Every Beat of My Heart
After winning the TV show contest Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, Gladys Knight formed The Pips with her siblings and recorded “Every Beat of My Heart” (1961) with the help of singer/music producer Bobby Robinson. When the single was released under Vee-Jay Records, it shot up to the peak of the R&B charts and became a No.6 pop hit. In 1962, Langston George left the group and the musical act was then billed as Gladys Knight & the Pips, with Knight as the lead vocalist and the Pips (her three cousins) as the backup singers.
Knight and her group scored their second hit, “Letter Full of Tears,” in 1962. It led to their signing to Motown Records in 1966, which helped endorse the group’s hit songs: “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1967), “The Nitty Gritty” (1969), “Friendship Train” (1969), “If I Were Your Woman” (1970), “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” (1971), the Grammy-winning “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (1972) and “Daddy Could Swear (I Declare)” (1973). Since they were regarded as a second-string act, Knight and the Pips left Motown and joined Buddah Records.
With the new partner, Knight and her group won a Grammy for their No.1 pop hit “Midnight Train to Georgia” (1973), as well as hit the charts with “I've Got to Use My Imagination” and “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.” The greater success brought Knight to the acting world, where she first appeared as Maria Wilson in the drama Pipe Dreams (1976) and immediately earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture (Female). Following some legal issues with the record company, Knight released her first solo recordings, Miss Gladys Knight (1978) and Gladys Knight (1979), which spawned the singles “I’m Coming Home Again” (1978), “It’s A Better Than Good Time” (1978) and “Am I Too Late” (1979). The solo attempt, however, did not make a significant impact.
Rejoining The Pips, Knight returned to the top of the R&B charts with “Save the Overtime (For Me)” (1983). She also guest starred as herself in two sitcoms, “The Jeffersons” (1983) and “Benson” (1984), before being cast as a regular in the short-lived series “Charlie and Co.” (1985, starred as Diana Richmond).
Knight took a crack at producing with the TV special music program Sisters in the Name of Love (1986, received a CableACE nomination for Performance in a Music Special), in which she also performed with Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick and more. The same year, Knight recorded the Grammy-winning AIDS benefit single “That’s What Friends Are For” (1986) with Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and more.
With The Pips, Knight took home her next Grammy for the single “Love Overboard” (1987) and had a successful tour in 1988. Yet, the Pips decided to retire, giving way to Knight’s solo career. Before long, the singer slipped her name on the UK chart thanks to “License to Kill” (1989), the theme song for the James Bond movie with the same title.
Within two years, Knight issued her third album, Good Woman (1991), which ruled the R&B album chart. It featured “Men” (R&B No.2 hit), “Meet Me in the Middle” and “Where Would I Be” (1992). She also had the supporting role of Mrs. McCormac in the comedy movie Twenty Bucks (1993) and took part in several first episodes of “New York Undercover” (1994, played Natalie).
Knight’s fourth studio album, Just for You (1994), fared even better with gold certification and a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album. Subsequent to the album Many Different Roads (1998), the artist eventually won a Grammy after launching At Last (2001). In the meantime, Knight appeared with minor roles in series like “Living Single” (1997) and “The Jamie Foxx Show” (1997, 2001), as well as in the movie Hollywood Homicide (2003, as Olivia Robidoux) and Unbeatable Harold (2005, played Phyllis).
As a devotee of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Knight set up the choir group Saints Unified Voices and recorded One Voice (2005), which gave her another Grammy. The recipient of the 2005 BET Lifetime Achievement award also shared a Grammy with Ray Charles thanks to their duet in the gospel song “Heaven Help Us All,” taken from Charles’ album, Genius Loves Company. Recently, the singer performed at the 2006 musical tribute to Coretta Scott King, the wife of activist Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary.
- Grammy: Best Gospel Choir or Gospel Chorus, One Voice, 2006
- BET: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2005
- Grammy: Best Gospel Performance, “Heaven Help Us All,” shared with Ray Charles, 2005
- Grammy: Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, At Last, 2002
- Grammy: Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, “That’s What Friends Are For,” 1986
- Grammy: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, “Midnight Train to Georgia,” 1973
- Grammy: Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus, “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye),” 1973