Gladys Knight & The Pips were a family R&B/soul vocal group. Together with Knight are her cousins who served as back-up vocalists. They were particularly prominent in the 1960s and 1970s. Their hits include “Every Beat of My Hear.” “I Heard It Through The Gravpevine,” “If I Were Your Woman,” “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye.” “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me,” and their signature tune “Midnight Train To Georgia.”
Formation of the group
The origins of Gladys Knight & The Pips are in Atlanta, Georgia in 1953. Gladys Knight (born on May 28, 1944, in Atlanta, Georgia) had been singing since she was a kid; she won an amateur contest on a TV show when she was seven.
In 1952, she and her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight, sister Brenda and cousins Elenor and William Guest went on to form their group, which they called “Pips” after their cousin James Woods (nicknamed “Pips”). The Pips then embarked on a tour. In 1959, Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest departed and Langson Geroge joined the group. In 1961, the Pips scored their first charting single “Every Beat Of My Heart” which already became a big pop and R&B hit, at #6, and #1 respectively. They later re-recorded another version of the song that same year.
In 1963, Glady’s first cousin Edward Patten joined the band. Langston left the group, leaving the Pips singing as a quartet once more. They renamed themselves Gladys Knight & The Pops, with of course Knight on lead vocals.
Knight left the group in 1962 to start her own family, and the Pips still functioned as a trio for a couple of years. Knight returned to the group, and Gladys Knight & The Pips were complete once more, later scoring modest chart successes. In 1966, the group inked a recording deal with Motown Records’ subsidiary Soul label. It was also Gladys Knight who recommended a youthful up-and-coming group named The Jackson Five to Motown founder Berry Gordy.
During their eight-year tenure at Motown, Gladys Knight & The Pips scored hits such as “Everybody Needs Love,” “The End Of Our Road,” “It Should Have Been Me,” “The Nitty Gritty,” “Friendship Train,” “You Need Love like I Do (Don’t You),” “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong,” “Make Me The Woman That You Go Home To,” “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” and their biggest smashes “If I Were Your Woman,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be the First To Say Goodbye),” and “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination.” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” would even become a bigger hit for another Motown star Marvin Gaye, in 1968.
In the 1970s, Gladys Knight & the Pips moved to Buddah Records. They recorded and released on what was to be their biggest single ever, “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Released in 1973, “Midnight Train to Georgia” went to #1 on both R&B and pop charts, becoming their only #1 hit on the Hot 100. The single’s album Imagination was their debut album on Buddah; it later received a gold certification.
Other hits on Buddah include “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” “Don’t Burn Down The Bridge,” “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me,” “I Feel A Song In My Heart,” and “On and On” among others.
In later years, Gladys Knight and the Pips continued to score steady hits until the late 1980s, where they finally parted ways and finally retired. Knight had begun on a music career, with her most glowing achievements being her vocal contribution for the James Bond flick License to Kill‘s title track in 1989. She reached the peak of success through her third solo album Good Woman (1991).
Gladys Knight and the Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame in 2001.