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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Legendary Group: Gladys Knight & The Pips


Gladys Knight, b. 28th May 1944, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.

Glady's Knight's elder brother 'Merald' Bubba (b. 4th September 1942, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.)

Cousin Edward Roy Patten, (b. 22nd August 1939, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. d. 25th February 2005, Livonia, Michigan, U.S.A.)

and Cousin Williarn Guest (b. 2nd June 1941, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.).

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Gladys Knight & the Pips were an R&B/soul musical act from Atlanta, Georgia, active from 1953 to 1989. The group was best known for their string of hit singles from 1967 to 1975, including "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (1967) and "Midnight Train to Georgia" (1973). The longest-lived incarnation of the act featured Gladys Knight on lead vocals, with The Pips, who included her brother Merald "Bubba" Knight and their cousins Edward Patten and William Guest, as backup singers.

At the age of seven in 1952, Gladys Knight won Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour television show contest. The following year, she, her brother Bubba, sister Brenda, and their cousins William and Eleanor Guest started a singing group called "The Pips" (named after another cousin, James "Pip" Woods). The Pips began to perform and tour, eventually replacing Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest with cousins Langston George and Edward Patten in 1959.

The Pips scored their first hit in 1961 with "Every Beat of My Heart", a cover of a Hank Ballard & The Midnighters song. The group had recorded the song for a friend in Atlanta, who promptly sold the master to Vee-Jay Records and cut the group out of the record's profits. 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. Shortly afterwards, Langston George left the group, and the remaining members continued as a quartet, now billed as Gladys Knight & the Pips. Typically, most of the act's recordings featured Knight's contralto on lead vocals and the three male members of the group, usually referred to as "The Pips" by themselves, providing characteristic background vocals.

After a second Vee-Jay hit, "Letter Full of Tears", in 1962, Knight quit the group to start a family with husband James Newman, giving birth to James Gaston Newman III in August of that year. Her second child Kenya Maria Newman was born in November the following year. The Pips toured on their own for two years, until Knight returned to the act in 1964 in order to support her two children.

The group developed a reputation for exciting and polished live performances that enabled them to work even without the benefit of best-selling records. Choreographer Cholly Atkins designed "fast-stepping" dance routines that became a signature of the Pips' stage presentation.

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. While at Motown in 1968, Gladys Knight was the first person to suggest that Berry Gordy sign an up-and-coming act from Gary, Indiana called The Jackson 5.

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 [1]. Producer Norman Whitfield recorded four versions of the song with various artists for potential single release; Knight and the Pips' version was the only one that Motown chief Berry Gordy did not veto. In late 1968, "Grapevine" would become an even bigger hit for Marvin Gaye, whose version, recorded before Knight's but released a year afterwards at Whitfield's insistence, became a #1 pop hit for seven weeks.

Further hits for the group included "The Nitty Gritty" (1968), "Friendship Train" (1969), one of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong's "psychedelic soul" songs, the #1 R&B "If I Were Your Woman" (1970, later covered by Stephanie Mills, Shanice and Alicia Keys), 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. While at Motown, Knight & the Pips recorded for Soul Records, a label Motown used for acts that recorded material with more of an R&B flavor than a pop flavor. On the A&E Network television program Biography, Knight stated that she and the Pips were regarded as a second-string act, and that "Diana [Ross] & the Supremes, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye were given all the hits, while we took the leftovers." In Knight's autobiography Between Each Line of Pain and Glory: My Life Story, she stated that Diana Ross had the group removed from being The Supremes' opening act on a 1968 tour for, according to Knight, being too good.

Many of Gladys Knight and the Pips' hits in the mid-1970s were written by country songwriter Jim Weatherly. Knight and the Pips charted with five of Weatherly's songs in 1973 and 1974: "Midnight Train to Georgia," "Neither One of Us," "Where Peaceful Waters Flow," "The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," and "Between Her Goodbye and My Hello." Weatherly had several hits of his own, the biggest of which was "The Need to Be" in 1974, and also wrote country hits for Ray Price, Glen Campbell and Bryan White among others.

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 their only #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" (later sampled by Eels on their 1997 hit Susan's House) and, culled from a live recording, "The Way We Were/Try to Remember" (later sampled by the Wu Tang Clan for their 1993 single "Can It All Be So Simple").

Curtis Mayfield served as producer in 1974 when Knight and the Pips recorded the soundtrack to the motion picture Claudine, resulting in a #5 hit in the film's theme song, "On and On". The following year, the group got their own hour-long musical variety television program, The Gladys Knight & the Pips Show, which ran for four episodes on NBC as a summer-season replacement. During one installment, comedian George Carlin, seated at a piano, performed the doo-wop song "Cherry Pie", accompanied by the Pips.













Discography

Letter Full Of Tears (Fury 1961)
Gladys Knight And The Pips (Maxx 1964)
Everybody Needs Love (Soul 1967)
Feelin'Bluesy (Soul 1968)
Silk 'N' Soul (Soul 1969)
Nitty Gritty (Soul 1969)
All In A Knight's Work (Soul 1970)
If I Were Your Woman (Soul 1971)
Standing Ovation (Soul 1972)
Neither One Of Us (Soul 1973)
All I Need Is Time (Soul 1973)
Imagination (Buddah 1973)
Knight Time (Soul 1974)
Claudine (Buddah 1974)
I Feel A Song (Buddah 1974)
A Little Knight Music (Soul 1975)
Second Anniversary (Buddah 1975)
Bless This House (Buddah 1976)
Pipe Dreams film soundtrack (Buddah 1976)
Still Together (Buddah 1977)
The One And Only (Buddah 1978)
Gladys Knight (Columbia 1979)
About Love (Columbia 1980)
Touch (Columbia 1981)
That Special Time Of Year (Columbia 1982)
Visions (Columbia 1983)
Life (Columbia 1985)
All Our Love (MCA 1987)
Every Beat of My Heart (Chameleon 1989)
Christmas Album (Special Music 1989)
Good Woman (MCA 1991)
Just for You (MCA 1994)
Lost Live Album (Buddah 1996)
Many Different Roads (Many Roads 1998)
At Last (MCA 2001)
Before Me (Verve 2006)


Solo:

Gladys Knight Miss Gladys Knight (Buddah 1979)
Good Woman (MCA 1991)


The Pips:

At Last - The Pips (Casablanca 1979)
Callin' (Casablanca 1979)

3 comments:

Funkback said...

Time for a legendary Sista among all the brothas of late. Gladys is such a mighty fine voice from the Ghetto to the Big venues uptown. And to think that she's still active and looking fine. Can You beat that?

Keith said...

I love Gladys. She's got such an incredible voice. She's still going strong today.

Raphy said...

That my Girl!!!!!

Big UP!@!

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