You don’t get called the ‘Empress of Soul’ for nothing, and you certainly don’t become a seven-time Grammy award winner for average music. It takes excellent, consistent super quality music abilities to develop such a reputation and award shelf; and that is exactly what Gladys Knight has. The American singer has risen to become one of the best in the history of the world, a fact confirmed not just by the Grammys, but also by the prominent entertainment magazine, Rolling Stone which has her in their 100 Greatest Singers of All Time – a remarkable achievement for the woman whose career has lasted over 60 years. Keep reading to learn more about Gladys Knight below.
Biography & Age
Even in the midst of oppression and racism, which was one of the themes of America in the 1940s, a star was born to an African American family on the 28th of May, 1944 in Atlanta, Georgia. Gladys Knight was born to a postal worker, Merald Woodlow Knight Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth. She was raised among three children, a sister, and two brothers.
Right from the age of seven, her singing ability began to manifest to the general public. She entered a singing contest on the Ted Mack’s The Original Amateur Hour television show and won. This feat was achieved in 1952 and before the year ended, Gladys Knight and her siblings formed a music group called the Pips. It was a small but important step into what would become the entire life of Gladys Knight. The group sang in small venues in and around Atlanta, combining their gigs with their academic responsibilities.
However, by the time the 60s rolled over, The Pips had begun touring around the country; the band was named after one of the family’s cousins (James ‘Pip’ Woods) and consisted of Gladys Knight, her siblings and two cousins –William and Elenor Guest.
In 1961, the group recorded their first song, Every Beat of My Heart and signed with a music label called Fury Label. The Pips found mild success with some of their songs in the first half of the 1960s, which included the release of their and Gladys’ first album.
With their popularity on the wane after a lack of hit songs, the Pips were lucky to sign with Motown Records, who took them on as second-string acts, but like water to a dying plant, signing onto Motown rejuvenated their career and they returned to releasing several number one hit songs.
Gladys Knight and the Pips having found their groove again, eventually left Motown and signed with Buddah Records. The partnership with Buddah Records gave Knight her first award-winning hits, with the release of the classic song, Midnight Train to Georgia. The Pips also took their music to Hollywood where they recorded the soundtrack to the classic film, Claudine. As Gladys Knight’s popularity grew, far across the US into Europe and the UK, she became a commercial draw that was recognized by Hollywood producers and she was given her first role in a film for Pipe Dreams, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
Despite the majority of her career being performances with the Pips, Gladys Knight’s solo career was also one of significant success, releasing her first solo album in 1978 titled Miss Gladys Knight. Over the course of her career, she has released a total of six number one Billboard albums and a total of 11 studio albums. She and the Pips, however, have released over 50 albums, including studio, live and compilation albums.
Gladys, who also had an extensive acting career, has appeared in over 20 films and television shows, including hits like Desperado and I Can Do Bad All by Myself. She has 22 Grammy award nominations to her name, winning seven of them. She was also awarded an Honorary doctorate in Performing Arts by Shaw University.
Her remarkable career, which has featured several commercially successful songs and tours, has helped her to a sizeable net worth of $28 million. She also has a film career where she has made a sizeable income from her appearances. Needless to say, Gladys Knight is an icon and she definitely put in the work to acquire her impressive net worth.
Gladys Knight’s Spouse & Children
Gladys Knight has three children from four marriages. She first became a wife at the age of 16, marrying fellow musician, James Newman. The marriage produced two children – James Gaston Newman III and Kenya Newman. After the divorce from Newman in 1973, she remarried in 1974 to Barry Hankerson and had her third child, Shanga Hankerson. Post-divorce from Barry in 1979, she got married again in 1995 to Les Brown and then to William McDowell in 2001 after her marriage to Brown ended in 1997. She is still married to William McDowell.
Height and Weight
Gladys Knight has a small body stature that stands at 5 feet and 3-and-half inches, with a body weight of 60kg. As an African-American, she has black hair and black eyes. The actress and musician is still in undeniable great shape and her physique is definitely aspirational.