4. Gladys Knight
Image courtesy of Jacob Kepler
Gladys Knight began singing at age four, and at just seven years old had her first taste of fame when she won Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour TV show contest in 1952. The next year, she, her sister Brenda, her brother Merald, and cousins Eleanor and William Guest formed a musical group called the Pips—named after her cousin, James “Pip” Woods.
Image courtesy of Gladys Knight
Brenda and Eleanor were eventually replaced with cousin Edward Patten and friend Langston George, and the group went on their first national tour when Gladys was 11 years old. In 1966, Gladys Knight & the Pips signed with Motown Records, where despite Knight’s powerful voice and the Pips’ smooth vocals and impressive dance moves, they were still considered a second-class act. They soon exceeded expectations, however, with the release of several hit singles, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Friendship Train,” and “I Don’t Want to Do Wrong.”
The act signed with Buddah Records in 1973 and achieved a new level of success with the R&B chart-topper and Grammy-winning “Midnight Train to Georgia,” as well as “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” and “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”
The Pips retired in 1988, and Knight has enjoyed a successful solo career ever since.
In 1976, Knight made her acting debut as the lead in the film Pipe Dreams, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year–Actress. In 2003, she had a small role in the hit movie Hollywood Homicide, starring Harrison Ford. She was also featured in Tyler Perry's film I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009).
In addition to film roles, Knight guest-starred on several television series, including The Jeffersons, A Different World, Benson, Living Single, The Jamie Foxx Show, and New York Undercover. She also made a number of television cameo appearances on shows such as 30 Rock and Las Vegas.
Knight joined the Church in 1997, years after her son and daughter were baptized. She told LDS Living, “My son Jimmy and his wife were the first to join the Church, after his best friend shared his testimony. Then my daughter, Kenya, joined the Church. I watched their lives grow, and to see how my grandchildren were being raised and what they knew really impressed me.”
She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995, and Gladys Knight & the Pips were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Learn more about Gladys Knight's conversion story, as well as her thoughts on race and religion.
And don't forget to check out her one-of-a-kind CTR ring!