Sometimes you don’t need an iPod. Allow me to demonstrate.
“L.A. proved too much for the man…“
With those words alone, I’m willing to bet that the archives of your brain brought up the rest of the lyrics for you to sing along with. For me, those first notes have a magic effect. That opening line to “Midnight Train to Georgia” somehow transforms me from a mild-mannered R&B enthusiast into a singer with the confidence of a delusional American Idol contestant. I can’t help it. I just want to sing along. Yet, somehow, I doubt I’m alone in this reaction. It’s one of the few songs that everyone not only knows, but loves. It’s soulful, and the backup vocals by The Pips are simple yet sublime.
I’m sure it goes without saying, but I think Gladys Knight is a national treasure in the realm of Rhythm & Blues music. Nicknamed the “Empress of Soul,” she’s experienced a full career and an incredible streak of longevity in an industry where maintaining success is no easy task.
Knight is a five-time Grammy winner, and has enjoyed both critical and mainstream prosperity since she first appeared on the Motown scene in the 1960s. Although it may seem natural that the best talent should enjoy a consistent level of kudos, I’ve learned to appreciate just how difficult this acclaim can be. After all, it took Mavis Staples sixty years to win her first Grammy (just this week). Yes, you read that correctly. 6. 0.
Gladys doesn’t take success lightly, and has never been one to sit on her laurels. Her works with The Pips put her on the map, but her solo career has also been full of highlights. Just off the top of my head, some of her gems are “If I Were Your Woman,” “The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (before Marvin Gaye’s version), and “License to Kill.” That’s right. She’s even recorded a James Bond theme. it’s also worth noting that she also was chosen to sing at Michael Jackson’s funeral. Talk about high standards. Wow.
Outside the world of music, Gladys Knight is also a published author, an occasional actress, and an entrepreneur. The latter came as a surprise to me late one night as I was watching an episode of “Man Vs. Food” (a guilty pleasure) and saw a feature on her restaurant in Atlanta. She was charming, congenial and beautiful as ever. Although I’ve never been sold on the concept of Chicken and Waffles as a dish, the ones at her restaurant made me want to take a midnight train to Georgia myself (“leaving on a midnight train, woo woo”). Take a look for yourself and tell me that doesn’t make saturated fats look soooo good.
And who wouldn’t be charmed? Gladys Knight is timeless. Even these cool kids worked in a musical number on their hit TV show…
Bet you thought it was going to be a clip from “Glee,” didn’t you? Pssh. Glee schmee. THAT was gold.
Soon, you’ll be able to experience your own golden Gladys moment. Motown royalty in the flesh, ladies and gents. Knight is a grand queen of the stage, and for one evening The Paramount will be her court. You simply have to see this.
“I know you will“
Now if you excuse me, I’m gonna find (“going back to find“) my collection of Gladys music and get lost in my own little world in preparation for her appearance.
“World, world it’s his, his and hers alone
I’ve got to go, I’ve got to go, I’ve got to go, I’ve got to go…“
Fear not, friends. I’ll exercise restraint. There won’t be any singing from yours truly. Gladys Knight will appear at The Paramount Theatre on Friday, February 18, 2011 at 8:00 p.m.