Gladys Knight: The veteran Motown singer on her farewell tour

Gladys Knight, all sugary smiles and motherly love, is discussing why she's not giving up on the UK with an ungracious adios.

Rather, her decision to embark on a final tour with Tito Jackson and Dionne Warwick is her way of saying goodbye to a country who may not have been recently pining over the soul legend's lengthy absence, but will wistfully bid her farewell with the same gushy feeling one gets when humming the chorus to her 1973 hit "Midnight Train to Georgia". "Since I have an opportunity to come back, it's been such a wonderful way to tell you how much I love you."

As is the case with many soul stars of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, there comes a time when closing the chapter on their last leg of celebrity becomes inevitable. Knight has always been known to approach her career with a subtle class that still allows her the respect gained by being the former lead member of The Pips who enjoyed a brief stint at Motown, discovered The Jackson 5 and landed the Bond theme tune "Licence to Kill" which has been her only solo Top 10 hit in the UK.

"The fact that I've been able to perform for 61 years and be on stage is amazing to me," she says brightly. "It's mind-boggling. If someone asked me, 'How did you do it?' I couldn't tell them."

By the age of seven, Knight – born in Atlanta, Georgia – won the TV talent show, Ted Mack's The Original Amateur Hour, and formed the Pips with her brother Bubba, sister Brenda and cousins William and Eleanor Guest a year later in 1953. Knight has no qualms about starting out in the business as a kid and dismisses any comparisons with other performers who started young, such as the late Michael Jackson, of whom she sang at his funeral. "Unfortunately in Michael's situation, he kind of understood that he was being kind of used for someone else's gratification. A lot of people live their dreams through their children. "

Knight would cross paths with the Jackson family as the Pips grew in popularity, following their 1961 hit, "Every Beat of My Heart" and a slight reshuffle of the group, which saw them re-branded as Gladys Knight and the Pips, led to a deal with Motown Records in 1966. In 1968, the group were watching The Jackson 5 rehearsing for a talent show and impressed with what they saw, the singer tried to call someone from the label to come down and see the boys for themselves. "But we didn't have much weight then," she remembers. "So they kind of ignored it."

The Pips would never hit the heights of their Motown label-mates, and even though her 1967 version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" hit No 2 in the US charts, Marvin Gaye's single, released the following year, was seen as definitive. But Knight went on to huge success in the 1970s on the Buddah label and has not been short of work since – a fact she attributes to her faith in God.

"It wasn't always about the fame or the fortune," she insists. "It was about using what God gave you." She has since repaid the debt by forming the choir One Voice, which picked up a Grammy for Best Gospel Choir Album in 2006.

You get the impression this really is her goodbye tour. She is too dignified for endless comebacks and has established parallel careers as an actress, restaurateur (she co-owns a chain of chicken and waffles restaurants in Georgia), and recently announced plans for a jewellery line.

So how imminent is retirement? "I think I'll always be doing something in the industry," she muses. "My philosophy is to enjoy life it its fullest but make sure you give back."



Gladys Knight: The Midnight Train To Love UK Farewell Tour, tonight at Wembley Arena. Tickets: www.ticketmaster.co.uk or 08455 191 465.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England