Few artists come close to matching Gladys Knight’s legacy. Best known for her long string of hit singles with the Pips in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, she’s a seven-time Grammy Award-winner with a place in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Vocal Group of Fame, seven No. 1 R&B albums, 3 songs in the Grammy Hall of Fame, and a reputation as one of the greatest soul singers of all time. Here, we take a look back at the career of the Empress of Soul with our pick of the 10 best Gladys Knight songs of all time.
10. On and On
Over ten years before she recorded the James Bond theme tune, License to Kill, Gladys Knight proved she knew her way around a soundtrack with On and On, a song recorded for the film “Claudine” and included on the album of the same name. Released as a single in 1974, it was a chart success, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the R&B Chart. It even managed to pick up a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
9. Try to Remember (The Way We Were)
Try to Remember was written by the writing team of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt for the 1960 musical, The Fantasticks (which, fun fact, became the world’s longest-running musical after running for 42 years). It was originally sung by Jerry Orbach. In 1975, Gladys Knight & the Pips turned it into a Top 40 hit when they made it into a medley with Barbra Streisand’s The Way We Were.
8. I’ve Got To Use My Imagination
Gladys Knight & the Pips’ debut album with Buddha Records produced a clutch of hits. One of its biggest was I’ve Got To Use My Imagination, a delicious helping of soul that spent a week at No. 1 on the Hot Soul Singles chart in early 1974. It’s since been covered by a legion of other artists, including Joe Cocker, Joan Osborne, and Bobby Bland.
7. If I Were Your Woman
If I Were Your Woman was written by singer/songwriter Pam Sawyer, Clay McMurray, and the Queen of Northern Soul herself, Gloria Jones. It’s since been covered by numerous artists, including Alicia Keys, but Gladys got there first with her version with the Pips in 1971. The song reached No. 1 on the Best Selling Soul Singles chart and No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
6. Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me
Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me was written by Jim Weatherly and first recorded by Ray Price in 1973 for his album, You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me. A year later, Gladys Knight & the Pips released their interpretation of the song, which rose to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on the Hot Soul Singles chart, and No.10 on the UK Singles Chart. It later certified gold after selling over one million copies in the US alone.
5. Love Overboard
After a decade without a top 40 hit, Gladys Knight & the Pips enjoyed a major comeback in 1987 with the song, Love Overboard. Not only did it reach the top of the Hot Black Singles Chart (their last ever No. 1 on the chart), but it also climbed all the way to No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on the dance charts. As the icing on the cake, it snagged the group a Grammy Award to add to their collection.
4. License to Kill
There have been some excellent James Bond soundtracks over the years, but Gladys Knight’s easily ranks among the best. As Genius.com notes, the song, which was recorded for Timothy Dalton’s second and, as it turned out, final James Bond movie, “Licence to Kill,” was originally intended to be performed by Eric Clapton and Vick Flick. However, the film’s producers turned it down and opted for Knight’s big ballad instead. Written and produced by industry heavyweights Narada Michael Walden and Walter Afanasieff, the song was released as a single in 1989, reaching No. 18 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and No.10 in the UK pop charts.
3. Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)
In late 1972, Gladys Knight & the Pips began recording what would become their final Motown album, Neither One of Us. The album was a major success, topping the Top Soul LP’s chart and becoming their most successful album on the Billboard Top LP’s chart. Its titular track was no less successful, spending four weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. Soul Singles chart and peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The critical reception was equally positive, and the song subsequently went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
2. Midnight Train To Georgia
If any song has a claim to being Gladys Knight’s most beloved signature tune, it’s Midnight Train To Georgia. Originally written and performed by Jim Weatherly, the song eventually worked its way into Knight’s hands in 1973. Released as a single from the album Imagination, it debuted at No. 71 on the Hot 100 before quickly working its way to No. 1, where it stayed for the next two weeks. It was also a success in the UK, peaking at No. 10. In 1999, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
1. I Heard It Through The Grapevine
As Smooth Radio explains, I Heard It Through The Grapevine was first recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles in 1966. Motown owner Berry Gordy didn’t like it and told the writers, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, to come back once they’d made it stronger. The next artist to have a crack at the song was Marvin Gaye, whose version was also rejected by Gordy (it didn’t stop Gaye from turning it into an international hit a couple of years down the line, though). Finally, Whitfield produced a version with Gladys Knight & the Pips. This time around, the song ticked Gordy’s boxes. Released as a single in September 1967, it flew to No. 1 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart and No. 2 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart, becoming the highest-selling Motown single to date.