With Diana Ross just here and Smokey Robinson on the way, Houston's Motown Spring continues Saturday with, in our opinion, Hitsville U.S.A.'s most underrated singer. Gladys Knight is hardly an unknown — "Midnight Train to Georgia," anyone? — but the Atlanta native and her Pips were somewhat lost in the shuffle among various Supremes, Temptations, Vandellas and Marvelettes. For example, it was they, not Marvin Gaye (or CCR), who first recorded "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" — bet you didn't know that, huh? Knight had already logged a few Top 5 R&B hits ("Every Beat of My Heart," "Letter Full of Tears") before signing to Berry Gordy's label in 1966, and the Pips always had a bluesier, more Southern tinge than their Michigan-bred labelmates, as on 1969 R&B No. 2 "Nitty Gritty." Knight really found her groove – and her biggest hits – on lush, heartbroken early-'70s ballads like "Georgia" and "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)." In more recent years, Knight logged the 1987 club smash "Love Overboard" and became the first Motown alumna to sing a James Bond theme with 1989's "License to Kill," before recording albums of gospel (One Voice) and jazz standards (Before Me) in the past decade.
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