Gladys Knight will be singing the National Anthem before kick-off for Super Bowl LIII, between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams; the 2019 Super Bowl is taking place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, where the 7-time Grammy-winning American singer and songwriter was born and raised.
Here’s what you need to know about the “Empress of Soul” Gladys Knight’s family and kids:
1. She Started ‘The Pips’ With Her Siblings & Cousins
Knight began her singing career in the 1950s when she was only 7 years old when she won The Original Amateur Hour TV contest. Following that win, she formed a music group with her siblings, Merald and Brenda, and cousins, Elenor and William Guest, called “The Pips.” The group eventually evolved into “Gladys Knight & the Pips” and had their first hit in the 1960s with “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” One of their biggest hits was “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
According to Biography.com, when Brenda and Elenor left The Pips to get married, Knight’s cousin Edward Patten joined the group along with Langston George.
2. She Has 3 Children From 2 of Her 4 Marriages
Gladys Knight has been married four times; she was married to James Newman from 1960-1973, Barry Hankerson from 1974-1979, Les Brown from 1995-1997, and has been married to current husband William McDowell since 2001. When Knight was married to Newman, they had two children together, Kenya and James III. With Hankerson, Knight had another son, named Shanga.
3. Her Son Shanga Has a Chicken & Waffles Restaurant
In 2017, Billboard reported that Knight went to court to separate herself from any ties to her son Shanga Hankerson’s restaurant, including the use of her name, likeness, and memorabilia. The restaurant was formerly called “Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles” when he started the business in 1999, but after the settlement, the name was changed to “The World Famous Chicken & Waffles.”
This settlement followed the news in 2016 that Hankerson was accused of ” taking a total of $650,000 in state sales and withholding taxes.”
Hankerson at first refused to remove his mother’s name from the business; according to the Daily Mail, court documents said: “Plaintiff’s claims are barred, in whole or in part, [sic] lack of mental capacity to rescind the license agreement granted to Defendants.”
4. Her Son James Died in 1999
Knight’s son James, nicknamed Jimmy, was her manager through his company Newman Management Inc. According to the Las Vegas Sun, James died in 1999 at the age of 36, and was survived by his wife Michelene and children, Nastasia, Gabrielle, Rishawn, Stefan, and Sterling.
Variety reported that Jimmy’s cause of death was heart failure and that he died in Las Vegas home.
5. Kenya & Jimmy Encouraged Her to Join the Mormon Church
According to LDS Living, Knight said “I raised my children to seek the Lord. We had been searching for the best of the Lord, the most of the Lord. My son Jimmy and his wife were the first to join the Church, after his best friend shared his testimony. Then my daughter, Kenya, joined the Church. I watched their lives grow, and to see how my grandchildren were being raised and what they knew really impressed me.” After Kenya told Gladys it was time for her to join Relief Society, she did; Jimmy baptized her in 1997.