From age 8, everyone anticipated Gladys Knight’s rise to stardom, but only a few knew the harsh road she walked on. Read about her life and Gladys Knight net worth.
Gladys Knight completes the legendary women of Soul who came together and performed for some time. The trio was composed of Bacharach’s most adored songstress, Dionne Warwick, the powerhouse and Godmother of Soul, Patti LaBelle, and the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight.
She is a 7-time Grammy Award winner, of which she shared three with the Pips and four as a solo artist. Gladys & the Pips also shared the honor of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
Gladys Knight net worth is estimated at $28 million. The 77-year-old singer can still capture people’s hearts with her voice though she is of age when she has to slow down a little. But slowing down doesn’t mean stopping. The world continues to look forward to her appearances.
Gladys Knight – Short Bio
Gladys Maria Knight was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 28, 1944. She belonged to a humble, upstanding family where everyone was blessed with the talent to sing. The people in their community remembered Gladys’ mother for her beautiful voice.
At four years old, her mother Elizabeth patiently taught little Gladys the original Latin version of Ave Maria. The singer fondly remembers how they’d curl up in bed, her mother would hand her one sheet of music at a time, and she would follow her sing, line by line, until she got it right.
After learning it by heart, Gladys went to different churches in Georgia to sing the Franz Schubert masterpiece in front of a crowd and never once failed to captivate her audience.
In 1952, Elizabeth wrote a letter to Ted Mac, the host of the famous CBS program Original Amateur Hour, to let the then 8-year-old Gladys Knight audition for the show. Though everyone in their family believed in Gladys’ talent, her father, Merald Sr., was furiously against the idea.
To Merald Sr, the entertainment world was questionable, and he feared exposing his children to an industry full of unsightly influences. But Gladys’ mother wouldn’t have it. The singer’s next thing knew, she was in New York City and sang through two rounds of the famous talent show.
Gladys Knight National Debut
On July 3, 1952, Gladys Knight made it to the final round of the Original Amateur Hour and awed the national audience with her rendition of Nat King Cole’s Too Young. She was indeed too young to understand her achievement at the time when even she, an 8-year-old girl, was subjected to racism and discrimination after bagging first place with a trophy bigger than her.
Other contestants were asked to help little Gladys hold the trophy because it was too heavy for a child. Out of pride and embarrassment of losing to a child, the contestants rudely declined. But Ted Mack came to the stage and shared the moment with Gladys.
To this day, Gladys Knight cherishes that one and only photo with the trophy and her hero.
Who would have thought that the impromptu band that a bunch of pre-teen kids formed would carry them all the way to the Grammys? But that’s what happened when the sound system broke down in the middle of Merald “Bubba” Jr’s 10th birthday party, Gladys’ big brother.
And again, due to the insistent demand of their biggest fan, their mother Elizabeth, Gladys formed a quintet with Bubba, their sister Brenda, and cousins Eleanor and William. They agreed to name their group The Pips, after their street-smart cousin and manager, James “Pip” Woods.
By the time Gladys was 12 years old, The Pips were opening for big acts like Sam Cooke, one of the most influential black vocalists in the history of soul music, and famous rhythm & soul singer Jackie Wilson.
Gladys Knight & the Pips
Between 1956 to 1959, The Pip’s had steady gigs but didn’t take off. Gladys had to make room for her education and help their mother support the family. She took a job as a jazz singer after her father went into severe depression when he lost his job as a postal service employee.
In 1961, Gladys secured a deal with producer Bobby Robbinson after recording Every Beat Of My Heart, later topping the R&B music charts. Robbinson suggested renaming the group to Gladys Knight & the Pips and sent them on their way to the Apollo Theatre in NYC.
While touring with other black performers in the South, Gladys had her second encounter with racism. They were forced to sleep outside in the cold because no hotel would take them in or even throw them in jail for traveling in a group with other African-American performers.
Glady was also pregnant at the time of their tour. At 16, her mother reluctantly agreed to her marriage to musician Jimmy Newman. But due to the harsh situations, she had to endure while on the road, Gladys Knight had a miscarriage during her third month and lost her first child.
From Motown to the Grammys
Gladys took a break from her career and focused on raising a family. But she was forced to leave her two young children with her mother and go back to singing because her husband was barely making enough to feed their young family. And quickly enough, Gladys was able to reclaim her spot as the lead singer of The Pips. But her successful comeback took a toll on her marriage.
A mixture of substance abuse and a bruised pride led Newman to become abusive. It came to the point that Bubba had to step in and protect Gladys. This led to the couple’s separation. By this time, Gladys was a 20-year-old single parent who had to leave her two small children to work.
Gladys & the Pips signed a 7-year contract with Motown in 1964. Though it was the place where hitmakers had the chance to climb further up the ranks, Gladys felt held back by the lesser treatment given to new acts compared to the priority given to Motown’s senior performers.
So Gladys took out her frustration in the best way she knew how and turned an initially tame song into a smashing hit. Her version of Grapevine stayed on the number one spot for six weeks and remained one of the unrivaled classic performances seen in the Ed Sullivan Show.
Before leaving Motown for good in 1973, Gladys Knight & the Pips won their first Grammy Award for Neither One of Us, the last song they recorded under Motown Records. But the group received 2 Grammy awards that year. The 2nd one was for Midnight Train To Georgia, the first of many hits they recorded under their new and better label, Buddah Records.
Gladys Knight Solo Career
The group’s success triggered continued success in both the US and UK music charts until the late 70s. But Gladys was forced to record as a solo artist due to a legal issue with Buddah Records. Gladys Knight & the Pips were restored after signing with Columbia Records in 1980.
During their career in the 80s, Gladys succumbed to a gambling addiction which drove her to debt and bankruptcy. According to her older brother, Bubba, Gladys held it together for as long as she could. She endured many social and personal trials that no young woman could have easily overcome and still came out at the very top of the ranks.
With the support of her family and friends like Dionne Warwick, who recounted a time when she had to remove Gladys from a gambling table physically, the singer was able to pick herself up.
Gladys started to pursue a solo career in 1987, just a year after sharing the stage with two of her closest friends, Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle, in an HBO special called Sisters in the Name of Love. The three had another chance of working together when Gladys featured her friends in her album Good Woman for the song Superwoman, which became the most successful album in her whole career.
Through the years that followed, her success just continued to soar. Gladys continued to work with people she loved and admired who were also big names in the music industry.
Icons like Ray Charles and Elton John, who are considered pillars of their genres. But also collaborating with younger and modern singers like Jessica Simpson, Ashanti, and Joss Stone, are just a few of the many great performers Gladys shared the stage with.
Gladys Knight was honored with a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1996 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. She also received the title “Empress of Soul ” from the Society of Singers ELLA Awards and Rolling Stones magazine declared Gladys Knight as One of The Greatest Singers of All Time.
Gladys Knight Net Worth – Frequently Asked Questions
How Much is Gladys Knight Net Worth?
Gladys Knight net worth is estimated at $28 million. The 77-year-old singer, songwriter, and businesswoman, first made a name for herself when she won the Original Amateur Hour in 1952 at eight years old. She took home $2,000 and a trophy bigger than herself.
Where Does Gladys Knight Net Worth Come From?
Gladys Knight net worth comes from her decades of success as a singer. She also dipped her toes in acting and was nominated at the Golden Globe as a new actress. Gladys is also a businesswoman who owns a restaurant chain called Gladys Knight & Ron Winans Chicken & Waffles, together with her son Kanga.
What Disease Does Gladys Knight Have?
Gladys Knight doesn’t have a health issue. She had a private conversation with her late friend Aretha Franklin who passed away from pancreatic cancer. This was misquoted and then sensationalized after Franklin’s death.
Gladys Knight Net Worth – Final Thoughts
Receiving 7 Grammys is no simple feat, but the music industry has produced stars with far more awards than the Empress of Soul. But what sets icons like Gladys Knight far above today’s younger performers is how she helped pave the way for them so their journey to recognition and success can be a stroll, compared to the thorny road Gladys took during her early days.
Gladys Knight net worth has long recovered when her life crumbled from addiction. She showed everyone that change is possible for everyone and even more so by having the support of those who care. Gladys didn’t just rise from her demise. She successfully stayed on top of her career.
And just as every penny is important in Gladys Knight net worth, the singer shared her blessing to those in great need. She used her voice countless times to raise for charitable institutions.
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Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.