Gladys Knight facts: Her songs, age, children, and husbands revealed

7 October 2018, 15:02 | Updated: 17 October 2018, 17:48

Gladys Knight
Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Gladys Knight is one of the greatest soul singers of all time.

From her time with her backing group The Pips to her hugely successful solo career, she is one of the most successful artists of her generation.

Here are all the important facts about the legendary entertainer:

  1. Gladys Knight age: How old is she?

    Gladys Knight was born on May 28, 1944. She celebrated her 74th birthday in 2018.

    She was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and was the daughter of Merald Woodlow Knight Sr, a postal worker, and Sarah Elizabeth (née Woods).

    She has a sister, Brenda, and one living brother, Merald Jr, and one late brother, David.

    She first foundfame by winning Ted Mack's The Original Amateur Hour TV show contest aged seven in 1952.

  2. Who were The Pips?

    The Gladys Knight & the Pips Show
    Picture: Getty

    In 1952, Gladys, her brother Merald, sister Brenda, and cousins William and Elenor Guest formed a musical group called the Pips (named after another cousin, James 'Pip' Woods).

    By the end of the 1950s, they began touring, and replaced Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest with Gladys' cousin Edward Patten and friend Langston George.

    After their first single, 'Every Beat of My Heart', they changed their name from The Pips to Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1961. Langston George left the same year and Gladys Knight left in 1962 to start a family.

    Gladys rejoined in 1964, and they continued until their split in 1989.

    Edward Patten was later diagnosed with diabetes, and he passed away from the disease in February 2005. William Guest died from congestive heart failure in 2015. In 1997, original Pips member Eleanor Guest died of heart failure.

  3. What are Gladys Knight's biggest songs?

    Gladys Knight's 6 best songs ever

    As part of The Pips, Gladys had big hits with 'Midnight Train to Georgia', 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine', and 'Neither One of Us' among others.

    In 1989, she recorded the theme tune for the James Bond movie Licence to Kill.

  4. Gladys Knight spouse and children: How big is her family?

    Gladys Knight and husband William McDowell in 2013
    Gladys Knight and husband William McDowell in 2013. Picture: Getty

    Gladys Knight has been married four times and has three children in total.

    At 16 years old, she became pregnant and married musician James 'Jimmy' Newman in 1960. She had a miscarriage, but the couple went on to have two children. Newman became a drug addict, and left the family when Knight was 20.

    Their son, James 'Jimmy' Gaston Newman III was born in 1962, and a year later had her only daughter, Kenya. After being separated for seven years, Knight divorced Newman in 1973, and he died a few years later.

    In 1974, Knight married producer Barry Hankerson, who is the uncle of the late singer Aaliyah. The couple had one son, Shanga Hankerson. Their marriage ended in 1979.

    In 1995, Knight married motivational speaker Les Brown, but they separated and divorced in 1997. She then married William McDowell in 2001.

    Knight's son and then-manager James passed away in 1999 at the age of 37 from heart failure.

  5. Does she run a chicken restaurant?

    Gladys Knight's son Shanga Hankerson owns a chain of chicken and waffles restaurants based in Atlanta, using her name.

    Gladys Knight & Ron Winans' Chicken & Waffles have three locations in the Atlanta area. One location was featured on the Travel Channel series Man v. Food.

    In 2016, police raided two of the restaurants and its headquarters. It was reported that Shanga was involved in unpaid taxes.

    A year later, Gladys severed all ties to the chain, and her son was ordered to remove her name from the business.