All hail the ‘Empress of Soul,’ as Gladys Knight will kick off Super Bowl 53 by singing the national anthem. Ahead of the Atlanta-native’s performance, get all the details about this soul icon.
Before the New England Patriots face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53 on Feb. 3, and long before Maroon 5 recruits Big Boi and Travis Scott to entertain the world with the Halftime show, the thousands gathered at the Mercedes-Benz stadium will be in for a treat. Atlanta, Georgia-native Gladys Knight, 74, will take to the field. She will perform the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the performance might be one for the history books. Ahead of Ms. Knight’s national anthem extravaganza, get all the details behind this R&B icon, and why she earned the title of the “Empress of Soul.”
1. She began singing at a young age. Gladys Maria Knight, born in Atlanta in 1944, first achieved minor fame by winning the Ted Mack Amateur Hour at age seven. Shortly afterward, she formed a singing group called The Pips with her brother Merald, sister Brendaand cousins William and Elenor Guest, according to Biography.com. The group, after undergoing some lineup changes, found success in 1961 with “Every Beat Of My Heart.” The road to fame would lead Gladys to Detroit.
2. She was on Mowtown. Gladys Knight and the Pips joined Motown Records in 1966. They scored several major hits, including “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Take Me In Your Arms and Love Me,” “If I Were Your Woman,” and “Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)” which would win the group a Grammy. Though she and the group would leave for Buddah Records in 1973, she would be associated with the legendary label.
3. She’s also an actress. Gladys received a Golden Globe nomination for New Star of the Year – Actress for her role in 1976’s Pipe Dreams. She has also appeared in the movie Hollywood Homicide and has made numerous appearances in such televisions series as Benson, The Jeffersons, Living Single, and 2017’s Star.
4. She gave everyone a scare at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. The “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin passed away in August 2018 due to a pancreatic tumor (first reported as pancreatic cancer.) Gladys, while attending Aretha’s funeral, said that she and Aretha “shared the fact that we had the same disease.” While this led many to think Gladys also had pancreatic cancer, she later clarified the comments that she had successfully battled “stage 1 breast cancer.” She also said that she is “cancer-free and grateful for that,” according to Rolling Stone.
5. She faced criticism for agreeing to sing at the Super Bowl, but she’s having none of it. The NFL and the African-American community haven’t been on the best terms since the exile of Colin Kaepernick, 31. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, and many (including him) think he’s been blackballed from the league. Travis Scott and Big Boi faced an online backlash after it was revealed they were involved in the Halftime show, and Gladys received similar flak over agreeing to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Gladys said in a statement. “I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good — I have been in the forefront of this battle longer than most of those voicing their opinions to win the right to sing our country’s Anthem on a stage as large as the Super Bowl LIII.”