Tagged with "night"
Gladys Knight is known as the “Empress of Soul" Tags: gladys knight empress soul music hall fame word life production feature blog

Born in Georgia in 1944, Gladys Knight began singing with her siblings at age 8, calling themselves "the Pips." The group opened for R&B legends in the 1950s, then headed to Motown and crossed over to pop music. As Gladys Knight and the Pips, they recorded their signature song, "Midnight Train to Georgia." Knight left the Pips behind in 1989, and continued to perform and record as a solo artist. Today, she's known fondly as the "Empress of Soul."

Early Years

Talented singer and actress Gladys Knight was born Gladys Maria Knight on May 28, 1944, in Atlanta, Georgia, and started out on the road to success at an early age. She made her solo debut at the age of 4, singing at the Mount Mariah Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Not long after, she won a prize for her performance on the televised Ted Mack Amateur Hour.

In 1952, an 8-year-old Knight formed "the Pips" with her brother and sister, Merald ("Bubba") and Brenda, and two cousins, Elenor and William Guest (another cousin, Edward Patten, and Langston George later joined the group, after Brenda and Elenor left to get married; George left by 1960). With young Gladys supplying the throaty vocals and the Pips providing impressive harmonies and inspired dance routines, the group soon earned a following on the so-called "Chitlin Circuit" in the South, opening for popular acts such as Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.

The Pips

While their first single, "Whistle My Love," was released by Brunswick in 1957, the Pips didn't score a bona fide hit until they began recording with Motown Records in the 1960s, where they were teamed with songwriter/producer Norman Whitfield. In 1967, the Pips' version of Whitfield's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine"—later a huge hit for Marvin Gaye—crossed over from the rhythm and blues charts to the pop charts. Their popularity increased with the success of singles like "Nitty Gritty," "Friendship Train" and "If I Were Your Woman," combined with touring performances with the Motown Revue and numerous TV appearances.

Knight and the Pips left Motown in 1973 for Buddah Records, a subsidiary of Arista (the group later took Motown to court for unpaid royalties). Ironically, their last Motown single, "Neither One of Us Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye," became the Pips' first No. 1 crossover hit and a Grammy winner for Best Pop Vocal Performance in 1973.

The group—now known officially as Gladys Knight and the Pips—was riding higher than ever during the mid-1970s with a smoother, more accessible sound, a hit album, Imagination (1973) and three gold singles: "I've Got to Use My Imagination," "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" and the Grammy Award-winning No. 1 hit "Midnight Train to Georgia" (Best R&B Vocal Performance). In 1974, the group recorded the soundtrack for the film Claudine, with songs written by Curtis Mayfield; the soundtrack album spawned the hit single "On and On." Their next album, I Feel a Song (1975), included Knight's hit version of Marvin Hamlisch's "The Way We Were," also popularized by Barbra Streisand; the album's title track became a No.

1 soul hit.

Knight and the Pips hosted their own TV special in the summer of 1975, and in 1976, Knight made an appearance in the film Pipe Dreams, for which she and the Pips also recorded the soundtrack album. She later co-starred opposite comedian Flip Wilson on the 1985-86 sitcom Charlie & Co. Due to legal problems with Buddah, Knight and the Pips were forced to record separately in the last years of the 1970s, although they continued performing together in live gigs. After signing a new contract with Columbia, the group released three reunion albums during the early 1980s, About Love (1980), Touch (1982) and Visions (1983), scoring hits with such singles as "Landlord" (produced by the ace songwriting team Ashford and Simpson), "Save the Overtime for Me" and "You're Number One".

Moving to MCA Records in 1988, Knight and the Pips released their final album together, All Our Love, which included the Grammy-winning single "Love Overboard." The next year, Knight left the Pips to launch a solo career, recording the title song for the James Bond film Licence to Kill (1989) and the album A Good Woman (1990), which featured guest stars Dionne Warwick and Patti Labelle.

Recent Years

Throughout the 1990s, Knight continued to tour and record, producing the successful 1994 album Just For You and earning acclaim for her consistently strong vocals and hardworking performance style. In addition to her musical career, she also acted in a recurring role on the 1994 TV series New York Undercover. Knight has also appeared on Living Single and JAG. On the big screen, she had a role in Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself in 2009.

While no longer a chart-topping success, Knight, known fondly today as the "Empress of Soul," has continued to make records. She once stated, "Since I've been so wonderfully blessed, I really want to share and to make life at least a little better. So every chance I get to share the gospel or uplift people, I will take full advantage of that opportunity." Knight collaborated with the the Saints United Voices for her 2005 gospel album One Voice, which did well. Knight's 2006 album Before Me also received a warm reception.

In 2012, Knight decided to take on another kind of role by joining the cast of Dancing with the Stars, the popular television competition, and strutting her stuff against the likes of actress Melissa Gilbert, actor Jaleel White and TV personality Sherri Shepherd.

Personal Life

Knight married her first husband, an Atlanta musician named Jimmy Newman, at age 16. The marriage produced two children, James and Kenya, before Newman, a drug addict, abandoned the family and died only a few years later. Her second marriage, to Barry Hankerson, ended acrimoniously in 1979 after five years in a prolonged custody battle over their son, Shanga. Knight married author and motivational speaker Les Brown in 1995; that marriage ended in 1997.

In addition to a tumultuous love life, Knight suffered through a serious gambling problem that lasted more than a decade.

In the late 1980s, after losing $45,000 in one night at the baccarat table, Knight joined Gamblers Anonymous, which helped her quit the habit.

Since 1978, Knight has lived in Las Vegas, close to her mother, Elizabeth, and two of her children and their families. She continues to perform frequently in Las Vegas and beyond, and published a memoir, Between Each Line of Pain and Glory: My Life Story, in 1997. With the Pips, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1998.

In April 2001, Knight married William McDowell, a corporate consultant she had reportedly met 10 years earlier, but had only begun dating the previous January.

© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

This week's celebrity pick is the fabulous late night talk show host, Arsenio Hall
Category: Celebrity Pick
Tags: arsenio hall late night talk show host word life production celebrity pick feature blog

Arsenio Hall is an American actor, comedian and former talk show host. In Chicago, he tried out stand-up comedy and was soon "discovered," later opening for Aretha Franklin and others. He appeared in the 1980s film Coming to America and Harlem Nights, but he is best known as the first black late-night talk show host. His groundbreaking talk show The Arsenio Hall Show ran from 1989-1994. He has starred in a variety of other TV projects and is slated to host his own late-night show once again in Fall 2013.

Early Career

Actor, comedian and television talk show host Arsenio Hall was born in Cleveland, Ohio on February 12, 1956. He is the son of Fred, a preacher, and his wife, Anne. Hall's parents separated when he was 6 years old. At age 7, he became interested in magic, and began performing at birthday parties, weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Hall is best known for his groundbreaking talk show The Arsenio Hall Show, which ran from 1989-94. As the first black late-night talk show host, one of Hall's distinctions is that he provided what was the first, and for a time, only, showcase for hardcore rap and hip-hop artists, and for controversial guests like Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader.

He attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, majoring in communications, though he transferred and graduated from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Though he started out in advertising, in 1979 he moved to Chicago, switched to stand-up comedy and was "discovered" at a comedy club by singer Nancy Wilson. He got jobs opening for musicians such as Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Patti Labelle, Wayne Newton, and Tina Turner.

Throughout the ‘80s, Hall appeared on various comedy and musical shows, including Solid Gold, Motown Revue and The New Love American Style, and hosted a short-lived show called The Half-Hour Comedy Hour. He made his feature film debut in Amazon Women on the Moon in 1987. Hall also appeared in two films with friend Eddie Murphy: the box-office hit Coming to America (1988) and Harlem Nights (1989).

'The Arsenio Hall Show'

Back in 1987, however, Hall had tapped into what would be his most successful professional endeavor. He took over hosting duties from Joan Rivers on The Late Show. His easygoing, playful and somewhat risqué banter was a hit with audiences. Based on that success, he was approached to host his own syndicated late-night talk show. Two years later, The Arsenio Hall Show was born. Hall’s deal included hosting and executive producing duties on the show, which was produced by Paramount and his own company, Arsenio Hall Productions. Starting a half-hour earlier than Johnny Carson’s late-night staple The Tonight Show in many regions, and booking younger, newer TV and musical artists than his established rival, Hall drew a young, hip audience. The show became famous for its Dog Pound "Woof! Woof!" (with pumping fist) chant and featured a range of guests that included Paula Abdul, En Vogue, Bill Clinton, Diana Ross and many more.

When Carson retired in 1992 and Jay Leno was chosen as his successor over David Letterman (whose show followed Carson’s), Letterman left NBC for CBS and started his own Late Show against Leno's. Leno started drawing young viewers away from Hall, and Letterman, who had a longstanding young audience, also cut into Hall’s audience. Though the ratings dropped, Hall said in a later interview that the show was still profitable and that he chose to walk away to explore other creative arenas and take time for himself. The Arsenio Hall Show aired its final episode May 27, 1994.

Other Film and TV Ventures

Hall received two NAACP Image awards in 1991, a Key of Life Award for his work as "a crusader in the fight of human rights," and another for his show. In 1993 he executive-produced the feature film Bopha!, a story about a family during apartheid, starring Danny Glover, Alfre Woodward and Malcolm McDowell and directed by Morgan Freeman.

After three years away from the public eye, Hall returned to television in 1997 with his short-lived sitcom Arsenio, co-starring Vivica A. Fox. In 1998-99, he made regular appearances on the CBS series Martial Law.

Hall hosted a revival of the televised talent show Star Search from 2003 to 2004. He also appeared as guest co-host on such shows as Access Hollywood Live and Piers Morgan Tonight. In 2012, Hall showed the world just how business-savvy he is on the celebrity edition of Donald Trump's hit reality competition The Apprentice. He beat out the likes of Victoria Gotti, rocker Dee Snider and American Idol singer Clay Aiken to win the top prize for his charity: the Magic Johnson Foundation.

New Show

Hall made a comeback to television in the fall of 2013 with a new syndicated talk show backed by CBS Television and the Tribune Co. Upon realizing he missed his previous work and receiving encouragement from his teen son, he decided to return to the format, with the idea of there being a cross-generational audience.

"Maybe there is some nostalgia: 'I used to watch Arsenio when I was in college,'" Hall said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "But we're doing a show for people, who have moved on, and now they can sit around with their kid who can stay up late, and there will be a lot of stuff they can both dig."

© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

In honor of those we've lost-Let's celebrate the life of Howard Rollins Jr. Tags: howard rollins jr heat night soilders story honoring those lost word life feature blog

Howard Rollins Jr. was born on this date in 1950. He was an African American actor.

Born in Baltimore, Howard Ellsworth Rollins, Jr., was the youngest of four children born to Howard E. Rollins, Sr., a steelworker, and Ruth R. Rollins, a domestic worker. After high school, he attended Towson State College, MD, where he studied theater. In his early years, Rollins vaguely considered becoming a teacher. At 17, a friend convinced him to attend a casting call at a local Baltimore theater, where he won a role in "Of Mice and Men."

Rollins surprised himself with the talent he displayed. Of that experience, Rollins told the New York Times in 1981, "Things made sense to me for the first time in my life." In 1974, he moved to New York City to try to get his career off the ground in earnest.

The big break for Rollins came when director Milos Forman cast him as Coalhouse Walker, Jr., in the 1981 film "Ragtime," based on the best-selling novel by E.L. Doctorow. Set at the beginning of the twentieth century, "Ragtime" includes a powerful storyline about a talented Black pianist who is the victim of racism, demands justice from the legal system and receives none, and ultimately desperately turns to retaliation. Rollins won wide acclaim for his portrayal of Coalhouse Walker and ultimately was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1981.

In 1982, speaking to the Los Angeles Herald Examiner about the treatment of racism in "Ragtime," Rollins stated: "It's as valid today as it ever was. You have neo-Nazis resurging, you have the Klan attempting to resurrect its members. There's no huge difference between 1906 and 1982 if one really looks at it. That movie could be done today and called 'Nowtime.'"

Rollins' performance in "Ragtime" led to many film and television roles. In 1982, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the daytime serial "Another World." He also appeared in a TV production of Carson McCullers' "The Member of the Wedding," in the comedy series "Fridays," and as the late civil rights leader Medgar Evers in "For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story."

In 1984, he played the lead role of Captain Richard Davenport in "A Soldier's Story," a film drawn on the Pulitzer-Prize winning play written by Charles Fuller and originally produced in New York City in 1981 by the famed Negro Ensemble Company. Rollins starred as an Army lawyer sent from Washington, D.C., to investigate the murder of an African-American sergeant on a military base in the South, a murder which may have been committed by Ku Klux Klan members from the area. Captain Davenport's investigation takes a surprising turn and the results demonstrate the pernicious impact of racism on African Americans.

Beginning in 1988, Rollins starred with Carroll O'Connor in the TV series, "In the Heat of the Night," which was drawn on the 1967 film starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. The series was first shot in a small town in Louisiana and then in a small town in Georgia. Although Rollins had grown up in Baltimore, he often felt uneasy and isolated in the Deep South. He frequently said that when he left the set, derogatory words were used in reference to Blacks. He did not find the environment welcoming or friendly, he found the work on the series to be formulaic, and he began to indulge in cocaine and alcohol. In 1988, while filming in Louisiana, he was arrested for possession of cocaine. Despite efforts at rehab, his problems continued and in the early 1990s, he served a 70-day jail sentence in Georgia for driving under the influence. Despite Carroll O'Connor's continued friendship and loyalty, Rollins was eventually written out of "In the Heat of the Night."

In his last years, Rollins made determined efforts to rebuild his career. He appeared in the TV series "New York Undercover" and "Remember WENN," in the PBS television film "Harambee," and in the theatrical film "Drunks."
Rollins' exceptional acting throughout his career helped to inspire subsequent generations of African American actors, playwrights, and filmmakers. Despite his troubles, he was cherished by his friends inside and outside the entertainment industry.

Howard Rollins died on December 9, 1996, of complications from lymphoma. He was 46 years old. On October 26, 2006, a statue of Rollins was unveiled in his native Baltimore at the Senator Theater. This statue is now part of the collection of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore.

Reference:
Bob Lamm, interview with Howard Rollins,
Los Angeles Herald Examiner,
Dec. 18, 1982, p D2.

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