One of the great soul singers, Gladys Knight was a performer from her childhood years, forming the Pips with her brother Merald and a couple cousins. They made the Top Ten in 1961 with the heavily doo wop-influenced “Every Beat of My Heart,” and recorded some fine, nowadays overlooked pop-soul sides for the Fury and Maxx labels in the early and mid-’60s, sometimes under the direction of songwriter Van McCoy. A couple singles from this period, “Letter Full of Tears” and “Giving Up,” made the Top 40, but Knight didn’t hit her commercial stride until she moved to Motown in 1966. Steeped in the gospel tradition, like so many soul singers, Knight & the Pips developed into one of Motown’s most dependable acts, although they never quite scaled the commercial or artistic heights of fellow stars on the label like the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations.
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