Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Midnight Train to Georgia, Gladys Knight & the Pips (1973)

I don't know precisely what it is about the first 15 seconds of this timeless classic by Gladys Knight & the Pips, but those seconds will forever whisk me back to the summer of 1973, when this song was just an integral part of the musical landscape of my life.

Actually originally recorded by Cissy Houston, who had a minor hit on the R&B charts earlier the same year, it went mainstream big time, becoming Gladys Knight & the Pips' first #1 hit for Buddah Records after their contract expired with Motown. Considered by many to be as close to perfect as a ballad gets, Knight's smooth soulful delivery and the seductive call-and-response of the suave Pips made for a class act if there ever was one.

Part of its appeal, I think, is how it parlays a realistic backdrop and an idealistic sensibility - without sugarcoating it - into one neat little package. Mississippi songwriter Jim Weatherly told a very simple but unforgettable story of one woman's devotion to and compassion for her man.

I've always thought some songs are blessed with precision lyrics that make them irresistible; this is one of those. When Gladys sings: I'm going to be with him / On that midnight train to Georgia / I'd rather live in his world / Than live without him in mine ... there is no escaping the shivers. How many of us have had those feelings about someone? For better or worse, I know I have.

5 comments:

karmasartre said...

Aaaahh, thank you. Wonderful description of a wonderful song.

"And the Pips" did the song on Richard Pryor's short-lived variety show. Very funny. No Gladys, no lead vocal, just the background parts and the dance steps.

karmasartre said...

Aaaahh, thank you. Wonderful description of a wonderful song.

"And the Pips" did the song on Richard Pryor's short-lived variety show. Very funny. No Gladys, no lead vocal, just the background parts and the dance steps.

Norrin2 said...

There's an interesting interview with Jim Weatherly at:
http://www.classicbands.com/JimWeatherlyInterview.html
Originally, the song was called "Midnight Plane to Houston" and it's based on -- I'm not kidding -- Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett.

Linda G said...

Wendy, I just love reading your take on songs from our past...many of them are songs I haven't even thought of in forever. Thanks for taking me back...again and again.

And your writing is just so enjoyable to read...well thought out and eloquently expressed. Do you write for a living? Or is just a gift? Obviously, music is one of your passions.

Thanks again for all of your hard work in keeping this going.

Mombi said...

Excellent!! Every entry is completely exquisite - both in the writing and in the musical selection!!