Gladys Maria Knight dubbed the “Empress of Soul ” is an is an American singer-songwriter, actress, businesswoman, humanitarian, and author. She was born on 28 May 1944, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Sarah Elizabeth (née Woods) and Merald Woodlow Knight, Sr., who was a postal worker. She was raised in a sound Christian home, and both of her parents were singers in the Wings Over Jordan Gospel Choir.
She is a seven-time Grammy Award winner (four as a solo artist and three with the Pips) and is currently ranked number eighteen in the 2005 Guinness Book of World Records’ list of the most successful female musical artists of all time. She is also ranked number 18 on VH1 network’s list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock, and in 1995, Gladys Knight was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.
Building on this success, in 1953, when she was about eight, she, her brother and sister, and two cousins started a group called the Pips, named after their manager and cousin, James Woods, nicknamed Pips. In 1961, they had their first hit. The group went through many changes as various members left and others joined. The group altered its name to Gladys Knight and the Pips. However, she left the group after their second hit to be a stay-at-home mother, and the group continued without her until she returned later on to support her family.
Knight faced a great many trials in her life, including several divorces and a gambling addiction battle. In 1989, she left the Pips and embarked on a solo career. Despite being inducted into the Hall of Fame and enjoying many of the perks of success, she understood something was missing. She wanted to be better than she was. She had been raised in a religious home and she went on her own search for faith, exploring a variety of religions. She wanted to live forever with God, but wondered what happened after you reached that milestone. No one could tell her, and she was frustrated.
She had no idea the foundation for her to receive that answer was quietly being laid for her. Her oldest son Jimmy and his wife became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Initially, they didn’t tell the rest of the family about this dramatic change in their lives. However, one day Jimmy opened his scriptures on an airplane as he sat next to his sister, Kenya. When he told her he was reading his scriptures, she was puzzled because what he was reading was not the Bible. The Bible is a part of the Mormon religion, certainly, but on this particular day, Jimmy was reading the Book of Mormon. He began to share his new faith with his sister, who, with her husband, soon joined the Church as well.
They went to work on their mother, who was still deep in her own personal search for religion. She agreed to meet with the missionaries, who had the answer to the question she had been asking in every church, and in 1997 joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Later, she married William McDowell, and despite his initial determination not to be converted, he joined the Church as well, keeping his studies of her faith a secret from her until the very day before his baptism. It was a surprise only to her however; everyone else was aware of his quiet investigation and his decision.
Eager to share the gospel, and mindful of her mother’s admonition that her music was a gift from God to be shared, Gladys eventually formed the Saints Unified Voices, or, as she likes to call it, the SUV Choir in Las Vegas. This group performs gospel music in free concerts held in Mormon churches, and on television, and records music as well. Their first album won a Grammy.
Jimmy, the son who gave Gladys the gospel, died in the late 1990’s. She told the Ottawa Citizen, “He brought me to my church and I just grew immensely from his example. I am happy in my spirit for where I know for sure he is. That (death) is something we all have to go through, it’s not our time and place to dictate when, where or what, it’s not our business. It belongs to the Lord and that’s how I’ve dealt with it. I know I’ll see him again.” (Ottawa Citizen)
In addition to her performing career, she is also the author of several books – At Home with Gladys Knight – A Cookbook, 2001, Many Different Roads: A Common Path, by Jock W. Rolfe, Gladys Knight, 1998, and Between Each Line of Pain and Glory: My Life Story – Biography and Autobiography, 1997. Where My Heart Belongs received an Image Award for Outstanding Gospel Album at the 46th NAACP Image Awards on 6 February 2015. The album features ten gospel songs and was originally intended to be a Christmas CD, but Gladys said, “Why should we have to wait until Christmas when Christ is here all the time?” She had previously won an Image Award in 2007 for Outstanding Jazz Artist.
Gladys Knight Facts:
*In addition to her performing career, she owns a chain of chicken and waffles restaurants based in Atlanta.
*She also has written several books.
*Knight was selected to compete in the March 2012 season of Dancing with the Stars.
*Knight is ranked number eighteen in the 2005 Guinness Book of World Records’ list of the most successful female musical artists of all time.
*Knight is ranked number eighteen on VH1 network’s list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock.
*In 1995, Knight was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.
Gladys Knight in 2012:
Rhythm and Blues, pop, gospel, soul She was baptized in August 1997 and received the endowment one year later. In 2000, she produced her first inspirational album, Many Different Roads, and in 2002, she organized a choir “to provide an opportunity for people who wouldn’t come otherwise to an LDS meeting, where they will hear a strong Christ-centered message of the restored gospel and feel the spirit that is present.” The choir is made up of more than 100 members from several stakes in the greater Las Vegas area. They bring a new level of passion and cultural awareness to the traditionally reserved LDS hymns. At the request of President Hinckley “to make your music available world-wide”, they have introduced their debut album One Voice, available at most retail music locations.
Listen to her talk about the church. (Click on Special Message.)