|Gladys Knight & The Pips.|
Gladys Knight is 70 today and while Midnight Train To Georgia is justifiably her most famous song, here are a trio of other Gladys Knight & The Pips tracks to mark her birthday. Didn’t You Know You’d Have To Cry Sometime, Letter Full Of Tears and Make Me The Woman You Come Home To aren’t just three of my favourite Gladys Knight & The Pips songs, they’re up there with with my all time most loved R&B records.
Gladys could sell a song as well as any soul singer in history – you believe her when she lets out, “Aw good God Almighty boy!” in the plea to a wayward love that is Make Me The Woman. Letter Full Of Tears is the 1970 remake of their own 1961 hit and apart from being a beautiful broken-hearted tale, it’s the false ending that really elevates it. This allows for an extension of the Danny Federici-like organ riff, the round tones of the rumbling bass and some of the Pips strongest harmonies.
As for Didn’t You Know, Ashford & Simpson (songwriters of classics like Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, You’re All I Need To Get By and many others) crafted a song perfect for Gladys’ gospel-styled vocals. Indeed the song begins with what sounds like a church organ before Gladys addresses a man who’d left her for another woman, only to be cheated-on himself by his new lady.
Lyrically and melodically, this is first-rate songwriting. Again, you believe Gladys as she tells her ex “didn’t you know you’d have to cry sometime,” when he comes crying back to her. She even let’s fly with the line, “All she told you was a bunch of lies,” though not necessarily without some small sympathy for the man who’d lied to her. The song concludes with Gladys telling him directly:
Now, you come to me
Yeah, you hurt so bad
You wanna feel the security
Of a love you once had
Oh, but I can’t open doors
And my arms can’t ever
Take the place of her
‘Cause no other could ever
Take the place of yours
So what can I tell you
Didn’t you know
You’d have to cry sometime
Didn’t you know
You’d have to hurt sometime
That’s Songwriters Hall Of Fame-worthy just for the lyrics and melody, but the song wouldn’t work if the singer hadn’t convinced you this could be autobiographical. Happy birthday Gladys – comfortably in the company of Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross* at the very pinnacle of female R&B stars in the 60s and 70s.
And here’s a fact possibly of zero interest to anyone other than myself: iTunes tells me these songs are my 12th (Didn’t You Know), 39th (Letter Full Of Tears) and 135th (Make Me The Woman) most played songs by any artist over the past five and half years. My word! Enjoy.
Song 1 – Didn’t You Know You’d Have To Cry Sometime
Song 3 – Make Me The Woman You Come Home To
*Diana Ross also recorded a version of Didn’t You Know.