This particular Gemini Roll Call needs probably very little introduction. Since her debut on The Ted Mack Amateur Hour some 63 years ago, Gladys Knight has been dazzling audiences with her rich and full bodied voice ever since. She’s always been a vocal presence in my life. My father had all of her LPs with her brother and two cousins from her Motown years through her Columbia years. My great grandmother filled in the rest with re-issues of her and “The Family’s” Vee-Jay and Fury years as well.
Suffice to say, beyond the scope of the obvious hits her and The Pips scored, I’ve had a lifetime to develop a relationship with her discography. And I have a heart full of favorites; there’s a shimmering vulnerability and honesty to her vocal expression that taught me more about the human condition that I could possibly know as a child. It’s a relationship with an artist that I’m profoundly grateful that I’ve maintained through my life.
Today, in an urban world full of strife and broken hearts; Gentrification, displacement, income inequity rule the headlines as many of my friends find themselves making choices for survival. I didn’t know when I used to get stuck replaying this song on the All I Need Is Time LP song 25+ years ago that I was listening to some pledge of solidarity. Cities like Oakland, where the sense of loss of community can be overwhelming, it’s great to dream of some future where we’re all reunited, despite the emotional strife that might have occurred in the past.
Here’s a typed hug, a love letter to Gladys Knight, for always reminding me to let my mind be free.