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Sound Bites: Gladys Knight Recounts Her First GRAMMY Wins, Shares Experience Of Watching Her Music Rise To A Global Stage
Gladys Knight

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Sound Bites: Gladys Knight Recounts Her First GRAMMY Wins, Shares Experience Of Watching Her Music Rise To A Global Stage

In this from-the-vault interview footage, Gladys Knight takes fans back in time to the night she and her band won their first golden gramophones at the 1974 GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Sep 28, 2022 - 02:06 pm

Over more than three decades as a band, soul-funk act Gladys Knight and the Pips rose to the very top of the musical mainstream. And singer Gladys Knight points to one of the major steppig stones toward global success: the evening they won their first GRAMMYs.

At the 1974 GRAMMYs, the band were nominated in two categories, but didn’t necessarily expect to win. After all, they’d been in the mix four times before, and ultimately walked away empty-handed.

So when their names were called as the winners of the GRAMMY for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus — for “Midnight Train to Georgia” — the band was a tad caught off guard.

“And you know how they start looking around to see where everybody is? We weren’t where we were supposed to be,” Knight recounts with a laugh, in this archival footage courtesy of GRAMMY.com. “You should’ve seen us moving people out of the way trying to get to the stage.”

They also forgot the speech they’d drafted four years earlier, back when they were first nominated. Instead, Knight improvised an eloquent speech onstage that thanked their management company, label and everyone else who helped them along the way.

Gladys Knight and the Pips’ time onstage that night wasn’t over: they also won a GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus, bringing their golden gramophone total up to two during the ceremony.

“Never in a million years did we dream we would win two GRAMMYs in one night. Never in a million years. And we dream a lot,” Knight continues.

To the band, their wins in those particular categories also signified a rise to a global platform unburdened by boxes. People around the world were listening to Gladys Knight and the Pips, and they couldn’t be confined to one genre box or demographic.

“Sometimes in the industry you tend to get pigeonholed, because of either what you sound like, or what you look like or where you come from, or whatever,” Knight continues. “It was just an awesome dream come true. It really was.”

Press play on the video above to hear Knight’s first-hand memories of her GRAMMY-winning experience, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Sound Bites.

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Gladys Knight & Chloe x Halle Open Super Bowl 2019

Gladys Knight

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

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Gladys Knight & Chloe x Halle Open Super Bowl 2019

The seven-time GRAMMY winner sang the National Anthem, while sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey performed "America The Beautiful"

GRAMMYs/Feb 4, 2019 - 04:34 am

The Empress Of Soul Gladys Knight opened Super Bowl 2019 in her hometown of Atlanta with a powerful rendition of the National Anthem.

The seven-time GRAMMY winner had previously noted that she "pray[ed] that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed... and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us." 

She also noted last month that, "I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words... the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life."

Knight's statement, which was released last month upon announcing her plans to sing the Anthem, touched on the current division this year's Super Bowl and the NFL in general has had in the music community. The NFL reportedly had a tough time booking its halftime talent this year due to the controversy surrounding former 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The Super Bowl kickoff also featured first-time GRAMMY nominees Chloe x Halle, who sang a stunning duet of "America The Beautiful."

Maroon 5 is confirmed to perform at the haltime show with special guests Big Boi and Travis Scott

Gladys Knight Will Sing Super Bowl National Anthem To "Bring Us All Together"
 

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Antenna For The Stars

Will the current landscape of music-based TV shows continue to yield a crop of pop stars?

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Has video killed the radio star…again? The Buggles' video of the same name famously launched MTV in 1981, and 30 years later television is continuing to make its unique mark within the music world.

Music and TV have been partners in creating pop stars since the dawn of the medium in the late '40s, when the popular radio show talent competition "The Original Amateur Hour," hosted by Ted Mack, segued to the small screen, helping to launch the careers of Gladys Knight, Ann-Margret and Pat Boone, among others. Programs such as "The Ed Sullivan Show," a variety show featuring musical acts that ran until 1971, and "Star Search," a talent show debuting in 1983, continued the trend. But it wasn't until "American Idol" debuted in 2002 as a Fox summer replacement series that the concept reached critical mass.

Based on the UK pop series "Pop Idol," which was a spinoff of the Australian show "Popstars," the idea behind "American Idol" was a singing contest, judged by industry professionals, in which the viewers voted for the winner by phone and text. The show was a success from the very start, averaging 12.7 million viewers per episode as that summer's highest-rated show in the 18–49 demo. By 2006 "American Idol" was attracting an average of 31.7 million viewers per episode, while the next year's season premiere peaked at 41 million viewers.

Since those heady times, "American Idol" viewing had been eroding precipitously, and before this year's 10th season, returning producer Nigel Lythgoe made several significant changes, including hiring new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez to join original judge Randy Jackson, signing on industry veteran Jimmy Iovine as a mentor, and lowering the eligibility age for contestants to 15. The moves helped stabilize ratings, with May's finale averaging 29.3 million viewers and a 9.2 rating in the 18–49 demo, up more than 21 percent in viewers and 12 percent in ratings compared to last year. It was the first time the finale received such a viewership bump in five seasons.

"It became tune-in television again," says Shirley Halperin, music editor for The Hollywood Reporter and author of the show's authorized history, American Idol: Celebrating 10 Years. "You wanted to hear what wackiness would come out of Steven Tyler's mouth next."

"American Idol"'s success has spawned a group of similar music-based shows, including NBC's "The Voice" and "The Sing-Off," a show for a cappella groups featuring Sara Bareilles as a judge; Bravo's "Platinum Hit," a competition for songwriters; Simon Cowell's new show "The X Factor," scheduled to debut in September; and arguably the most successful music show of all time, the fictionalized music-based comedy drama "Glee." Each show has arrangements with major music companies to help break discovered talent, including Sony Music Entertainment ("The X Factor," "Glee" and "Platinum Hit") and Universal Music Group ("American Idol" and "The Voice").

Featuring GRAMMY-nominated recording artist Jewel as host and ex-"American Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi, "Platinum Hit" is Bravo's pop tunesmith answer to "Top Chef" and "Project Runway." Jes Hudak, a singer/songwriter from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., who was a contestant on the show's first season, says it has been a boon for her career.

"The whole goal is exposure, and getting my music to the people it's going to mean something to," says Hudak. "We get such harsh feedback from people in the industry, and what really matters are the people who listen, buy your music and connect with what you're saying."

While major labels are on the receiving end of previously vetted talent, artists that already have name recognition and legions of Facebook and Twitter followers, platinum sales for TV show contestants and winners isn't a given. Does the show's democratic voting process result in a lowest-common-denominator winner, preventing what truly makes a musical superstar — something unique and compelling and sometimes even off-putting? And while "Glee" has sold millions of downloads and albums, has anyone yet emerged from its cast as a superstar?

"It's no longer about record sales," says Halperin, who points to Adam Lambert as an example of a unique "American Idol" alumnus. "You have to think about Broadway, 'Glee,' making a viral video, blogging about 'American Idol,' [or] becoming a Fox News correspondent covering the show. If you didn't win, you have to be willing to embrace your past."

What separates "American Idol" from its competition is the glimpse of transformational reality we get into how pop stars are groomed, allowing the audience to become vested in its chosen favorites' destiny.

"Scotty McCreery started out as [someone] who couldn't even carry on a conversation," says Halperin about "American Idol"'s season 10 winner. "Fourteen weeks later, he was this engaged, charming and media savvy professional who's being molded into a potential country star."

It is precisely that feeling of emotional involvement the other music competition shows are also trying to convey.

"The competitive atmosphere is not for everybody," says Hudak. "I wanted to show enough of my personality so people could relate to me as a human being as well as an artist. This is a way to really push my skills. It's all about pure feedback, growth and getting better."

With shows such as "American Idol" now producing artists who have been fans from the show's beginning, it makes it much more difficult to find where reality ends and artifice begins, especially in a landscape where these series are proliferating.

"The traditional route of becoming a pop singer is not an option for [new contestants]," observes Halperin. "Their problem is the 120 finalists who came before them, and have had that much more time in the media and public consciousness. The smart ones take the [money] they make from the ['American Idol'] tour and put it in the bank."

While the current industry climate presents a mountain of challenges for aspiring pop stars, music TV shows will likely continue to be a magnet for them.

"It gives you the best possible chance to succeed," says Halperin. "But a lot of things have to come together for it to ultimately happen."

(Roy Trakin has been senior editor at HITS magazine since he still had hair, and has written for every defunct rock publication that did and didn't matter. He is also the author of biographies on Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks and Sting.)

GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Gladys Knight & The Pips Perform "Midnight Train To Georgia" At The 16th GRAMMY Awards

Gladys Knight & The Pips at the 1974 GRAMMYs

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Gladys Knight & The Pips Perform "Midnight Train To Georgia" At The 16th GRAMMY Awards

The iconic soul and R&B act earned their first two golden gramophones that night at the 1974 GRAMMYs

GRAMMYs/Jan 18, 2020 - 03:18 am

Back in 1973, pivotal Atlanta soul and R&B group Gladys Knight & The Pips released their powerful No. 1 hit "Midnight Train To Georgia." The following year, they performed a rousing rendition at the 16th GRAMMY Awards, with Knight stunning in a shimmering gown and The Pips showing off their perfect "Soul Train"-ready dance moves.

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The former Motown act earned their first two golden gramophones that night: Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus for "Midnight Train" and Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus for "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)."

Above, in our latest edition of GRAMMY Rewind, watch the Empress of Soul Knight perform "Midnight Train To Georgia" with The Pips at what was clearly a magical 1974 GRAMMYs.

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The song was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 1999. Another one of their classic tracks, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," released via Motown in 1967, earned a GRAMMY Hall Of Fame induction in 2018.

The Atlanta group went on to earn several more GRAMMY nominations over the years and one more win, at the 31st GRAMMY Awards in 1989 in the Best R&B Performance category again. This award went to "Love Overboard," the fabulously synthed opening track to 1987's All Our Love. Knight has earned a total of seven golden gramophones to date, most recently in 2006 for her gospel album One Voice.

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GRAMMY Living History Moments With Gladys Knight
Gladys Knight

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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GRAMMY Living History Moments With Gladys Knight

The Empress of Soul discusses the Pips, planes, trains, and mining GRAMMY gold

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Seven-time GRAMMY winner Gladys Knight is featured in the latest installment of GRAMMY Living History Moments, a new series showcasing excerpts from the GRAMMY Foundation's Living Histories archive. Knight discusses topics such as the formation of Gladys Knight And The Pips, their GRAMMY-winning hit "Midnight Train To Georgia," what it means to win a GRAMMY, and more.

"We had called [songwriter] Jim Weatherly about the lyrics to the song, because in the beginning it was 'Midnight Plane To Houston,'" said Knight regarding the origins of "Midnight Train To Georgia." "We [weren't] crazy about flying. In my young days I rode the train everywhere, and we're from Atlanta, Georgia. So we said, 'Houston, well, nice city but we don't much about it. Why can't we say it's a "Midnight Train To Georgia?"' And Jim loved the idea."

Born in Atlanta, Knight rose to prominence in the '60s with Gladys Knight And The Pips on Motown Records. Joined by brother Merald "Bubba" Knight and cousins William Guest and Edward Patten, the R&B/soul group recorded hits such as "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," "Friendship Train," "If I Were Your Woman," and "I Don't Want To Do Wrong," among others. The Pips won three GRAMMY Awards, including Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus for "Midnight Train To Georgia" in 1973. The song was also inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 1999. The group disbanded in 1988 and Knight pursued a solo career. The Empress of Soul has won four additional GRAMMY Awards as a solo artist, including Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal with Elton John, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder for "That's What Friends Are For" in 1986, and Best Gospel Choir Or Chorus Album for One Voice in 2005. Knight is among the artists scheduled to perform at the 2010 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York on Nov. 25.

The GRAMMY Foundation's Living Histories program preserves on videotape the life stories of key recording industry professionals and visionaries who helped create the history of recorded sound. This footage is utilized by the GRAMMY Foundation and its partner organizations to develop educational video programs that tell the unique stories of our musical history through the unfiltered voices of its makers. To date, the Foundation has completed more than 200 interviews with artists, producers, executives and technology pioneers. 

GRAMMY Living History Moments: Clive Davis