Hump Day Slow Jam of the Week: Gladys Knight & the Pips, "Midnight Train to Georgia"

Feb 11, 2009 at 11:36 am
The Singer: Hailing from Atlanta, Gladys Knight fronted her brother and two cousins in the Pips from 1953 to the late '80s, though the best-known incarnation of the Pips recorded between 1967 and 1975. The quartet recorded for Motown in the '60s but found greater fame on the Buddha label, which released "Midnight Train to Georgia" in 1973.

The Song: "Midnight Train" is a little more gritty and Stax-y than most slow jams we've featured here, but the soul and sentiment comes through. When Gladys sings "I'd rather live in his world than be without him in mine," it basically condenses every love song down to one line. More notable, though, is the back-up vocals by the Pips: rather than simply echo the lead singer's lines in harmony (like most back-up groups did), the all-male Pips provide a Greek Chorus for Gladys. It's an elegant solution to a tricky gender issue.

The Video: A magenta-clad Gladys holds court as the Pips, in requisite matching suits, perform syncopated steps and demonstrative background vocals. Why aren't more modern videos this simple and this good? 

Hipster Cachet: Oh, what treasures YouTube reveals: apparently those lovable scamps Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey, Jr., mimed the Pips' dance moves in a recreation of today's video. This was for some telethon benefit, so we assume the buffoonery was for a good cause. Video below.