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Gladys Knight Turns 75 Today! Here Are Some Interesting Facts about the Singer's Life

Junie Sihlangu
May 28, 2019
11:43 A.M.
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Today marks the day that songstress Gladys Knight was born. The musician officially turned 75-years-old today! To celebrate this special day we’ve compiled some interesting facts about her.

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The “Empress of Soul,” Gladys Knight was born on May 28, 1944. Her birthplace was Atlanta, Georgia, where she was the daughter of Merald Woodlow Knight Sr, a postal worker, and Sarah Elizabeth (née Woods).

The singer has a sister named Brenda, a brother named Merald Jr, and another brother, David who has since passed away. In 1952, Knight first found fame when she won Ted Mack's “The Original Amateur Hour” TV show contest.

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At the time, she was only a little girl who was seven-years-old. That same year, Knight, Merald Jr., Brenda, and cousins William and Eleanor Guest formed a musical group called The Pips.

The group was named after another cousin, James “Pip” Woods. Some of their biggest hits were “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” and “Neither One of Us.”

They began touring towards the end of the 1950s and her sister and Eleanor were replaced with Knight’s cousin Edward Patten and a friend, Langston George.

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In 1961, the Pips changed their name to Gladys Knight & the Pips after their first single, “Every Beat of My Heart.” George left the same year and the following year Knight left the group to start a family.

In 1964, she rejoined them until the group split in 1989. After the group split, she went solo and recorded the theme song for the James Bond movie “Licence to Kill.”

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Knight has been married four times in her life; from 1960 to1973 she was married to musician James Newman who left her at age 20 when he became addicted to drugs. From 1974 to 1979, producer Barry Hankerson was her husband.

She married motivational speaker Les Brown from 1995 to 1997 and has been married to current husband William McDowell since 2001. With Newman, she had two children Kenya and James III.

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While married to Hankerson, the singer had another son named Shanga. James III became her manager through his company Newman Management Inc. Sadly he died from heart failure in 1999 at the age of 36 and was survived by his wife Michelene and children, Nastasia, Gabrielle, Rishawn, Stefan, and Sterling.

Shanga owns a chain of chicken and waffles restaurants called Gladys Knight & Ron Winans' Chicken & Waffles which are based in three locations in Atlanta. In 2016, the police raided two of the restaurants and its headquarters.

Reports stated that Shanga had unpaid taxes and a year later, his mother severed all ties to the chain. He was ordered to remove her name from the business.

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