Gladys Knight
  • Faith: Latter-day Saint
  • Career: Musician
  • Birthday:  May 28, 1944

Gladys Knight, known as the “Empress of Soul,” is a singer. A 10-time Grammy Award winner, Knight recorded hits through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s with her family group Gladys Knight & the Pips, which included her brother Merald Knight and cousins Edward Patten and William Guest. She’s recorded two number-one Billboard Hot 100 singles, “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” which she did with Dionne Warwick, Sir Elton John and Stevie Wonder, 11 number-one R&B singles and six number-one R&B albums. She’s won seven Grammy Awards and is an inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Vocal Group Hall of Fame along with the Pips.

Two of her songs, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia,” were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic, and significant” value. She also recorded the theme song for the 1989 James Bond movie “License to Kill.” Rolling Stone magazine ranked her among the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. She’s also a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and Kennedy Center Honors. Knight was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1944 to Sarah Elizabeth and Merald Knight Sr. Her parents were members of both a local choir group and the church choir. She has a sister, Brenda, and two brothers, David and Merald.

She started singing gospel music at four years old at the Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Atlanta. When she was eight, Knight won Ted Mack’s “The Original Amateur Hour” TV show contest, singing Nat King Cole’s “Too Young.” Shortly after, she, along with her brother Merald, sister Brenda, and cousins William and Eleanor Guest, performed together during Merald’s 10th birthday party after a record player stopped working. The quintet later formed a group at the encouragement of Knight’s mother. They settled on the name “The Pips,” inspired by the nickname of their manager and cousin, James “Pip” Woods. The Pips performed at talent shows, church, and club openings for popular acts, then signed with Brunswick Records in  1957 and started releasing singles.

After some lineup changes, the group debuted their first album in 1960 when Knight was 16 years old. By then, she’d recorded five songs and released her first hit single, “Every Beat of My Heart.” Knight’s departure to start a family with husband and musician Jimmy Newman halted the group’s success, but they resumed soon after when she returned. Gladys Knight & the Pips joined the Motown Records roster in 1966, and although initially regarded as a second-string act by the label, they scored several major hits. In their early Motown years, Gladys Knight & the Pips toured as the opening act for Diana Ross and the Supremes. In her memoirs, Knight said that Ross kicked her off the tour because the audience’s reception to Knight’s soulful performance overshadowed her.

What religion is Gladys Knight?

Gladys Knight was raised as a Baptist, later became a Catholic and became a Church Member in 1997 when she was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, inspired by her children, who had left Catholicism to join. She would occasionally tease LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, saying they need to inject some “pep” into their music. He agreed, which resulted in the founding of the Saints Unified Voices gospel choir directed by Knight. In 2018, she led the Be One Choir at the “Be One” event in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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