Motown legend Gladys Knight will ring in 2016 at the Disney Concert Hall and she says she expects people to come ready to celebrate.
I will be on stage when the new year rolls in and we’re gonna be having some fun. And we’re going to do our typical “Auld Lang Syne” welcoming in the New Year — and that’s always a good thing, because we’re blessed to be able to see another one.
Knight — or “The Empress of Soul,” as she’s known — also has a new single out called “Just a Little,” and she spoke with Off-Ramp’s John Rabe about signing with Motown, her 1973 number-one hit “Midnight Train to Georgia” and how she’s managed to keep the same singing voice she had in the ‘60s.
On singing with Motown
We were friends with everybody at Motown, but we were independent of the company. I mean Smokey [Robinson], every time I saw him, he was in my ear talking about ‘You should come to Motown. You should come to Motown.’ So we were saying, ‘Yeah, we know you guys over there, you’re our sisters and our brothers. But we’re used to being independent. We pick up our own money, make our own shots.’ And that kind of thing. And that was all-inclusive when you went to the company. They managed you, they told you where to go, they picked up your money. They did all that kind of stuff. And we didn’t know if we’d be liking that kind of structure, OK. But what we did know was that they were the number 1 hit producers in the country at that time. And all the other record companies that came after them, you know, saw that it was very viable. And we ended up going [to Motown] because we had done everything other than having that nationwide, worldwide big record.
Breaking down “Midnight Train to Georgia”
Well I have to give a lot of that to my brother, Bubba, because he’s one of the Pips, my brother Bubba. He and I were most of the time — most of the time — instrumental in creating the background vocals... We really enjoyed that part of recording. And I even give him credit for my ad-libs on the end of “Midnight Train to Georgia,” because I’m not a good ad-libber. And so, he would be in my ear. When we would get to the end of the song, for some reason, I would just freeze. And when I got to that part I just kept freezing... So I just started mimicking whatever he was doing, and that’s how I got the fade on “Midnight Train.” I can’t take credit for that.
On keeping her voice
I know my mentors taught me how to take care of myself. I don’t party, per se. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I’m not rubbing that in anybody’s face — you live the life that you want to — but that’s how I chose to follow their direction.