What Is Gladys Knight’s Age, and Why Did She Agree to Perform at the Super Bowl?

Music legend Gladys Knight will take the field on Sunday to sing the national anthem at Super Bowl LIII. The “Empress of Soul” is sure to put on a good show. After all, she’s been performing since she was a child in the 1950s and has enjoyed a string of hits both on her own and as part of the Pips.

Gladys Knight is 74 years old

Gladys Knight
Gladys Knight attends the 2018 American Music Awards | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Knight is a Georgia native, making her an obvious choice to belt out “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. She was born in 1944 in Atlanta and got her start as a singer at the age of 4, when she sang at Mount Mariah Baptist Church.

In the early 1950s, Knight joined the Pips, a group that also included her brother and sister and two cousins. After touring around the South and opening for performers like Jackie Wilson, the group joined Motown Records in the mid-1960s. Songs like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “If I Were Your Woman” went on to top the charts. Later, the group moved to Buddah Records and scored another No. 1 hit with “Midnight Train to Georgia” in 1973.

Gladys Knight and the Pips continued to record through the 1980s. In 1987, she left the group to pursue a solo career. She’s also worked as an actress, appearing on shows like Living Single and movies like I Can Do Bad All By Myself. In 2012, she competed on Dancing with the Stars.

Why she agreed to sing at the Super Bowl

In January, the NFL announced that Knight had been tapped to sing the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl. Some criticized her for her decision to perform. A number of other artists had reportedly declined to participate in order to show their support for sidelined quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Knight acknowledged Kaepernick’s protest against police violence and racial injustice, but said in a statement issued to Variety that her goal in performing was to “give the Anthem back its voice.” She also pointed to her past work with the civil rights movement.

I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good — I have been in the forefront of this battle longer than most of those voicing their opinions to win the right to sing our country’s Anthem on a stage as large as the Super Bowl LIII.

During an interview with Today, she elaborated on her decision to perform. “I can only say how much I feel and care about the country itself,” the singer told Craig Melvin. “I felt like I could do my part.”

Through an attorney, Kaepernick said that he thought anyone who performed at the Super Bowl was “crossing an intellectual picket line.”

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