Gladys Maria Knight, known as the “Empress of Soul,” is a well-known American singer, composer, actor, and businesswoman. Gladys Knight & the Pips, which was created on May 28, 1944, also comprised her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight, cousins William Guest and Edward Patten, and she first gained notoriety as the group’s lead vocalist.
Knight had a long career that spanned the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and she created a number of top-charting hits during that time. Gladys Knight was born in Atlanta to postal employees Sarah Elizabeth (née Woods) and Merald Woodlow Knight Sr.
Knight began singing in her church choir when she was a small child in the late 1940s and early 1950s, where she first displayed her vocal prowess. She even took first place in the coveted Ted Mack’s The Original Amateur Hour TV show competition in 1952 when she was just eight years old.
The first time Gladys, Bubba, Brenda, and their cousins Eleanor and William Guest performed as a group was that same year at Bubba’s tenth birthday celebration. The gifted quintet decided to join a group at the encouragement of Gladys’ mother, Elizabeth Knight, after the performance, which was caused by a broken record player.
Gladys Knight children: Meet Shanga Hankerson
Barry, a record producer, and the laureate of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame award wed in 1974. In 1976, they had a boy they called Shanga. When Shanga reached adulthood, he opened three Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles locations in Atlanta.
However, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison for failing to pay the required taxes on the wages of his employees in 2021.
Gladys Knight children: Meet James Newman III
In 1960, Gladys wed James, her first husband. In 1962, they welcomed James III into the world. Their union, however, disintegrated in 1973. Gladys Knight & The Pips, a popular singing group, took a sabbatical during this time to focus on raising their kid.
Gladys came back into the spotlight when James III was a young child and formed a particular bond with her firstborn. At the height of his mother’s prominence, he eventually rose to the position of manager through his own business, Newman Management. He was instrumental in helping Gladys establish her own record label, Many Roads, in 1999.
Sadly, James III passed away on July 10, 1999, in his Las Vegas home from heart failure, according to Variety. He left Michelene, his wife, two daughters, and three boys in his wake. Gladys thanked her son and Kenya for motivating her to join the Church of Latter-Day Saints before he passed away.
She stated, “My son Jimmy and his wife were the first to join the Church after his best friend shared his testimony,” in an interview with LDS Living conducted in June 2016. Then Kenya, one of my daughters, joined the Church. I observed their daily activities and was astounded by my grandchildren’s remarkable upbringing and education.
Gladys Knight children: Meet Kenya Newman
Gladys and James had a daughter named Kenya in 1963. She graduated from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, where she also met and later wed Jimmy Jackson. Prior to deciding to follow her actual passion for baking, Kenya initially pursued a career in marketing.
The Las Vegas Sun reports that Kenya began her entrepreneurial journey in 1997 when she founded Kenya’s Cakes of the Stars at Sunset Station. Despite having a mother who is a well-known musician around the world, Kenya has largely avoided the spotlight.