Gladys Knight's Life in Photos

In honor of Gladys Knight's 79th birthday on May 28, 2023, take a look back at the singer's incredible musical career, from performing with The Pips to her multiple Grammy wins 

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Gladys Knight's Early Life

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1964: Photo of Gladys Knight (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Gladys Knight was born on May 28, 1944, to parents Merald Woodlow Knight Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Knight first started singing in her church choir before eventually appearing on a TV show contest at the age of 8.

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Gladys Knight on The Original Amateur Hour

NEW YORK - 1952: Future Motown star seven year old Gladys Knight poses for a portrait backstage at The Original Amateur Hour hosted by Ted Mack in 1952 in New York city, new York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

In 1952, Knight first stepped onto the musical scene when she appeared on Ted Mack's The Original Amateur Hour. Not only did she win the competition at the age of 8, but it led her to perform even more with her brother Bubba, sister Brenda, and their cousins Eleanor and William Guest.

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Gladys Knight and the Pips

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Edward PATTEN and Bubba KNIGHT and Gladys KNIGHT & The Pips and Gladys KNIGHT and William GUEST; Posed full length studio group portrait L-R William Guest, Edward Patten, Gladys Knight and Bubba Knight, (Photo by RB/Redferns)

After performing with her siblings and cousins at a birthday party, Knight's mother encouraged the kids to form an actual musical group, which they eventually called The Pips (they later changed the group's name to Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1961).

After performing in several talent shows together, they signed with Brunswick Records in 1957, paving the way for their musical successes. The group later signed with Motown Records in the late '60s, when they reached commercial success with singles such as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "Midnight Train to Georgia."

The group — which over the years included Gladys Knight, Bubba Knight, William Guest, Edward Patten, Brenda Knight, Eleanor Guest, and Langston George — received critical acclaim from 1952 to 1989, including several Top 20 hits and multiple Grammy wins. They were also inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001, furthering their status as R&B music legends.

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Gladys Knight in Pipe Dreams

Pipe Dreams, US lobbycard, Gladys Knight, 1976. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)
LMPC via Getty

In addition to singing with the Pips, Knight began branching out into acting in the mid-1970s. In 1976, she made her acting debut as the lead in the film Pipe Dreams for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe for new star of the year – actress.

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Gladys Knight's Television Appearances

Singer Gladys Knight performing the song Friendship Train with puppet character Slim Wilson on the set of The Muppet Show at Elstree Studios, Hertfordshire, circa 1980. (Photo by TV Times via Getty Images)
TV Times via Getty

Knight also made several television appearances in the '70s and '80s. She briefly starred on the short-lived variety show The Gladys Knight and the Pips Show in 1975 in addition to appearing on The Muppet Show, The Jeffersons, and Living Single, among many others.

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Gladys Knight's Performance of That's What Friends Are For

1986 Mandatory Credit: Photo by Nick Ut/AP/Shutterstock (7319039a) Clive Davis, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Elizabeth Taylor, Gladys Knight, Carole Bayer Sager, Burt Bacharach From left to right seated are; Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder and Elizabeth Taylor. Top standing left to right are; Clive Davis, Gladys Knight, Carole Bayer Sager and Burt Bacharach. They are shown in California Actress Elizabeth Taylor
Nick Ut/AP/Shutterstock

In 1986, Knight joined musical legends Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John on the 1985 AIDS benefit single, "That's What Friends Are For." The single not only went triple No. 1, but later won a Grammy for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocal.

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Gladys Knight's Solo Career

NEW YORK CITY - DECEMBER 31: R&B/Soul Singer Gladys Knight performs at a New Year's Eve Concert on December 31, 1988 at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty

In 1978, Knight began to branch out as a solo artist with the release of her debut album titled Miss Gladys Knight. Over the years, Knight has released 11 studio albums, one of her most notable albums being Good Woman in 1991, which hit No. 1 on the R&B album chart and received a Grammy nomination for the track "Superwoman."

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Gladys Knight's Grammy Wins

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 2: William Guest poses with Gladys Knight and The Pips back stage after winning a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus at the 16th Annual Grammy Awards on March 2, 1974 at the Hollywood Palladium, Hollywood. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
CBS via Getty

Knight has received a number of Grammys over the years, both with the Pips and as a solo artist. She received her first nomination in 1967 for best female R&B vocal performance and her first win in 1973 for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals. In total, Knight has won seven Grammys out of the 22 she has been nominated for.

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Gladys Knight's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star

ANAHEIM, UNITED STATES: Gladys Knight, a multi-talented women making her mark as a singer, entertainer, writer, composer and actress, recieved a star on the Hollywood "Walk of Fame" 27 June in front of the Cannell Building in Hollywood , CA. Knight is best known as being a member of Gladys Knight and the Pips. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read MIKE NELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

On June 27, 1995, Knight was recognized for her many musical achievements with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Gladys Knight's Induction Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Gladys Knight and Mariah Carey (Photo by Ke.Mazur/WireImage)

A year after receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Knight and the Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Davie Bowie, Pink Floyd and more. During the induction dinner, Knight snapped a photo alongside Mariah Carey, who inducted the group during the ceremony.

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Gladys Knight's Lifetime Acheivement Awards

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 17: Gladys Knight accepts the Legend Award at the Soul Train Awards 2011 at The Fox Theatre on November 17, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Chris McKay/FilmMagic)
Chris McKay/FilmMagic

In addition to her various music honors, Knight has also received several lifetime achievement awards. In 1992, she received the Essence Award for Career Achievement; in 2002, she received the BET Lifetime Achievement Award (pictured); and in 2011, she received the Soul Train Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Gladys Knight's Farewell Tour

Gladys Knight performing live at Wembley Arena, London on 8 October 2009 during her 'Midnight Train to Love' Farewell Tour.; Job: 76154; Ref: HDR; (Photo by Howard Denner/Avalon/Getty Images)
Howard Denner/Avalon/Getty

In October 2009, Knight embarked on her farewell tour in the United Kingdom, featuring appearances from Tito Jackson and Dionne Warwick. Despite being named her "farewell" tour, she has continued to tour and perform publicly since.

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Gladys Knight on Dancing With the Stars

DANCING WITH THE STARS - "Episode 1403" - This week's episode of "Dancing with the Stars," themed "The Most Memorable Year of My Life," challenged the remaining eleven couples to perform a meaningful dance using any style dance of their choice, MONDAY, APRIL 2 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Adam Taylor/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images) GLADYS KNIGHT, VAL CHMERKOVSKIY
Adam Taylor/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

In 2012, Knight competed on season 14 of Dancing with the Stars alongside partner Tristan MacManus. The dancing couple came in eighth overall, with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver taking home the coveted Mirrorball Trophy at the end of the season.

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Gladys Knight on The Masked Singer

THE MASKED SINGER: L-R: Gladys Knight and host Nick Cannon in the special two-hour Road to the Finals / Season Finale: The Final Mask is Lifted season finale episode of THE MASKED SINGER airing Wednesday, Feb. 27 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)
FOX Image Collection via Getty

A few years after appearing on DWTS, Knight competed on another reality competition. In 2019, she was revealed as the "Bee" on The Masked Singer, placing third in the competition.

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Gladys Knight at the 2019 Super Bowl

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 3: Gladys Knight sings the National Anthem before the New England Patriots play the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 03, 2019. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty

In 2019, Knight had the high honor of singing the national anthem at Super Bowl LIII, where the New England Patriots won against the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Knight's hometown.

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Gladys Knight's Kids

Singer Gladys Knight standing arm-in-arm w. her daughter Kenya, whose holding a Canon auto-focus camera during Dionne Warwick's four-day benefit to raise money for the Warwick Foundation's fund for AIDS education and pediatric AIDS care. (Photo by Robin Platzer/Getty Images)
Robin Platzer/Getty

In addition to being a music legend, Knight is a mother of three children: son James "Jimmy" Gaston Newman III born in August 1962, daughter Kenya Maria Newman (pictured left) born in November 1963, and son Shanga Ali Hankerson born in August 1976.

In June 1999, Knight's son James, who managed his mother's career through his Newman Management, tragically died from heart failure at age 36, as reported by Variety.

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Gladys Knight's Husband William McDowell

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 27: Recording artist Gladys Knight (L) and entrepreneur William McDowell attend the Clive Davis and Recording Academy Pre-GRAMMY Gala and GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Jay-Z on January 27, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

In April 2001, Knight married corporate consultant William McDowell during a private ceremony in California. Since then, the couple have given several glimpses of their romance, including attending various events together and sharing heartfelt tributes to each other on social media.

Before McDowell, Knight was previously married three times prior: to James "Jimmy" Newman from 1960 to 1973, Barry Hankerson from 1974 to 1979, and Les Brown from 1995 to 1997.

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Gladys Knight at the Summer of Soul Screening

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 19: Gladys Knight performs during Questlove's "Summer Of Soul" screening & live concert at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem on June 19, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
Roy Rochlin/Getty

After a nearly eight decades-long career, Knight shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In addition to touring across the globe, she has continued to perform on stage and on the screen.

In 2021, she made an appearance as herself in Eddie Murphy's Coming 2 America film and that same year, she performed at a screening for Questlove's Summer of Soul documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which featured appearances from Gladys Knight & the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and more notable artists.

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