In this world, there is no shortage of people who can carry a tune. But there are singers, and then there are singers.
We don’t need to debate who has the best singing voice, as that’s really a matter of taste. But there are a handful of singers who can sing anything, anytime, anywhere and sound amazing every single time they open their mouths.
In 1974, Gladys Knight clearly solidified her spot on that list.
At the 16th Grammy Awards, Gladys Knight and the Pips were the presenters for Song of the Year. But instead of simply naming the nominees, Knight sang snippets from each song (with some backup help from the band and the Pips).
Knight was 29 years old at the time and had just won her first two Grammy awards, one for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus with “Midnight Train to Georgia” and one for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus with “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye).”
Even for an award-winning singer, the idea of singing the nominations—parts of five different songs from five different artists in five different styles back to back—seems daunting. But Knight pulled it off flawlessly, sounding as good as, if not better than, each of the original artists as she sang. The richness of her voice, her pitch-perfect delivery and the emotion with which she sang each song is simply unreal.
Watch her just effortlessly slay portions of each of these nominees:
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” (Greg McDaniels)
“I Honestly Love You” (Peter Allen, Jeff Barry)
“Midnight at the Oasis” (David Nichtern)
“The Way We Were” (Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Marvin Hamlisch)
“You and Me Against the World” (Paul Williams, Kenneth Ascher)
She isn’t known as the Empress of Soul for nothing.
Knight has won seven Grammy awards and has been inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (along with the Pips). Most recently, she made headlines for her gracious response after a sports commentator mistook Dionne Warwick for her at Serena Williams’ final tennis match. Though both singers were in attendance, they were not sitting together and when cameras panned to Warwick, the announcer mistook her for Knight.
“Dionne and I have been sisters for a long time, and I hope she is as honored to be mistaken for me as I would be her,” Knight said in a statement to NBC News. “I’m sure it was an honest mistake. It was a blessing to be in the house to see Serena’s greatness.”
Knight will also be starring in an upcoming holiday film, “Someday at Christmas.”