Today is the birthday of Gladys Knight, a soulful singer whose name instantly conjures three more words – “… and the Pips.”
That may be a tough notion for any diva to accept, but if Wikipedia is to be believed, at one point in her early career the entire band carried the nickname of her Uncle, James Woods.
And yes, that means she was just another Pip.
History could have led anywhere from there. At least it didn’t turn into “The Pips – featuring Gladys Knight.”
Knight was born in Atlanta in 1944, and gave her home state perhaps the finest pop music theme song of all fifty contenders with this classic.
It sounds odd to say it this way, but the song was created with a different title – “Midnight Plane to Houston.” Writer Jim Weatherly allowed the change to suit a singer who was actually named Houston – Cissy, Whitney’s mother. Cissy Houston recorded it as “Midnight Train To Georgia” on her debut album as she tried to de-Pipify herself after singing backup for characters like Elvis and Aretha Franklin.
Why is it that hopping a late plane to Houston sounds excruciating, while catching an overnight train to Georgia is romantic?
One can only imagine what it was like to sing that song over and over and over and over and over again as it became a worldwide hit. I hope somewhere along the way, Gladys Knight felt a powerful sense of affirmation. After all, having a trio of choreographed “yes men” sing your exact words moments after you say them to thousands of adoring fans is the very thing that leads many corporate CEO’s to strive for that corner office.
What would your backup group be called?