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Gladys Knight and The Pips

Gladys Knight was born in 1944 in Atlanta, Georgia. She, her brother Bubba, sister Brenda, and their cousins William and Eleanor Guest started a singing group called The Pips. The Pips began to perform and tour, eventually replacing Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest with Langston George in 1959 and eventually Edward Patten in 1963. They scored their first hit in 1961 with "Every Beat of My Heart". 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 ...read more

Gladys Knight was born in 1944 in Atlanta, Georgia. She, her brother Bubba, sister Brenda, and their cousins William and Eleanor Guest started a singing group called The Pips. The Pips began to perform and tour, eventually replacing Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest with Langston George in 1959 and eventually Edward Patten in 1963. They scored their first hit in 1961 with "Every Beat of My Heart". 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", Knight quit the group to start a family with husband James Newman. The Pips toured on their own for two years, until Knight returned to the act in 1964 in order to support her family. Husband Newman served as the group's musical director. 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", Knight and the Pips did not achieve widespread success until 1966, after signing to Motown Records. 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 Five. 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. 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", "Friendship Train", "If I Were Your Woman" and "I Don't Want To Do Wrong". Their biggest Motown hit was 1973's "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.

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 the #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. 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", "I Feel a Song (In My Heart)", "Love Finds Its Own Way" and, culled from a live recording, "The Way We Were/Try to Remember".

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.

Knight and the Pips continued to have R&B hits until the late 1980s. From 1978 to 1980, Knight and the Pips were forced to record separately due to legal problems with Buddah. Knight released two solo albums and the Pips released two albums of their own. In 1980, the Pips signed to Columbia Records, for which Knight had recorded her second solo album. Teaming up with songwriting husband/wife duo Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Knight & The Pips released the album About Love in 1980, which featured "Landlord" and "Taste Of Bitter Love". Ashford & Simpson continued with Knight and the Pips for the 1981 follow-up, Touch, featuring "I Will Fight" and a cover of "I Will Survive".

Also in 1981, the group provided prominent backing vocals for Kenny Rogers on his remake of Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Share Your Love with Me". After an international tour, Knight and the Pips recorded the LP Visions (1983), which resulted in a #1 R&B hit with "Save the Overtime (For Me)" and was certified gold. In 1987, Knight and the Pips released their final album, All Our Love, on MCA Records which was also certified gold. The album's single "Love Overboard" became a #1 R&B hit which won the 1988 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. In 1988 the band also won a Soul Train Music Award for Career Achievement.

Gladys Knight & the Pips embarked on their final tour in 1988 and disbanded upon its conclusion, as Gladys Knight decided she wanted to pursue a solo career. The Pips retired, while Gladys Knight began scoring hits of her own with singles such as "Men" and "I Don't Want to Know". The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1998. Ms. Knight, now a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, continues to tour and record occasionally, and leads the Saints Unified Voices choir. Edward Patten of the Pips died in February 2005, of complications from his long bout with diabetes. « hide

Similar Bands: Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack

Neither One Of Us
1973

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