Gladys Knight and the Pips have cemented their place in hearts around the world, being a part of the famed Motown-era and then some.
Growing up as a little girl in the South, my life was filled with music, especially soul music. My mom grew up in the ’70s so I enjoyed most of the tunes she played, and I remember vividly hearing “Midnight Train to Georgia” blare out of the speakers one Saturday morning.
“He’s leaving (leaving) on that midnight train to Georgia (leaving on the midnight train to Georgia ooh, ooh),” Gladys Knight sang, backed by the Pips. “I’d rather live in his world than live without him in mine (her world is his, his and hers alone).” I didn’t quite understand it then, and if I’m honest, a part of me still doesn’t get it.
It would be much later on when Gladys’s music would really resonate with me, and that song would be “Neither One of Us.” It’s a ballad about the end of two lovers’ journey. They both know it’s come to an end, but still can’t find the words to put each other of their own misery.
“Oh, every time I find the nerve, every time I find the nerve to say I’m leaving (leaving)/ Oh memories, those old memories get in my way (get down in my way),” Knight spills over the melody. “Oh, Lord knows it’s only me, only knows it’s me that I’m deceiving/ Ooh, when it comes to saying goodbye that’s a simple word I just cannot say say/ There can be no way, there can be no way (neither way) this can have a happy ending (happy ending), no, no/ So we just go on (go on) hurting and pretending / And convincing ourselves to give it just one more try (one more try)/ Because neither one of us (neither one of us) wants to be the first to say, neither one of us (neither one of us) wants to be the first to say, ooh, neither one us (neither one of us) wants to be the first to say farewell my love, goodbye (goodbye).”
Gladys Knight’s voice has always been so soothing and smooth, and the Pips are such a wonderful complement, the perfect amount of sugar over a cinnamon (roll) beat. The way she adlibs and incorporates her own emotions makes each song she sings one of a kind, and that’s what makes her so legendary and soulful. It’s what still resonates with me some 30-plus years later.
Now don’t you go thinking that the songs mentioned are the only ones worth writing about because there are more—many, many more—I love, like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” You’re the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me,” Love Overboard,” “If I Were Your Woman,” and “Missing You” from Everybody Needs Love, Imagination, All Our Love, If I Were Your Woman, and the Set It Off Soundtrack, respectively.
With a career that spans longer than I (and my mom) have been alive—65 years—Gladys Knight and the Pips have cemented their place in hearts around the world, being a part of the famed Motown-era and then some. And how could you not love her sass and confidence to say, “If I were your woman and you were my man, you’d have no other woman you’d be weak as a lamb?” Damn! That’s some kind of woman, and that’s who she is.
Thank you, Gladys Knight for all you’ve brought me: songs about best friends, dreams, and love. You’re a great treasure and I’m so glad to have known your music. Plus, I can’t wait to see you perform at the Nashville Symphony Orchestra April 5. If she’s coming to a town near you, treat yourself! | Ashley White