Gladys Maria Knight (born May 28, 1944), known as the “Empress of Soul” is an American singer–songwriter and actress. A seven-time Grammy Award-winner, Knight is best known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both theMotown and Buddah Records labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips, which also included her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight and her cousins Edward Patten and William Guest.
Knight was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of Merald Woodlow Knight, Sr., a postal worker and Sarah Elizabeth (née Woods). She first achieved minor fame by winningTed Mack’s The Original Amateur Hour TV show contest at the age of seven in 1952. The following year, she, her brother Merald, sister Brenda, and cousins William and Elenor Guest formed a musical group called the Pips (named after another cousin, James “Pip” Woods). By the end of the decade, the act had begun to tour, and had replaced Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest with Gladys Knight’s cousin Edward Patten and friend Langston George.
In 1961 the group recorded “Every Beat Of My Heart” on the tiny Atlanta Huntom label, which was picked up by Vee Jay. At the same time, the group signed with Bobby Robinson’s Fury label. Both labels issued different versions of the song, with the Vee Jay/Huntom version outselling the Fury remake. With the success of their follow-up, “Letter Full Of Tears”, Fury released their first album. They stayed with Fury through 1962, although the hits dried up. They signed with Larry Maxwell’s Maxx label in 1964 and released several modest hits produced by Van McCoy, including the original version of “Giving Up” and “Lovers Always Forgive”.