Gladys Knight's latest CD is a collection of standards called Before Me. On the disc, Knight pays tribute to the women she looked up to as a young singer, performing her own versions of the songs they made famous.
The influence of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Lena Horne and others can be heard on the recording. Knight studied their work before going into the studio, listening to hours of originals.
Knight, a native of Atlanta, comes from a musical family. Her backup group the Pips included a brother and two cousins. In 1952, when she was just seven, Knight got her first big break, outsinging fellow contestants on the nationally televised Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour.
She hit the road at an early age. Traveling, she encountered many of the great ladies of song backstage, and in the rooming houses where black performers were then forced to stay.
Once awed and intimidated by her heroes, the mature Knight is now confident enough to join their ranks.