Gladys Knight earned the nickname “Empress of Soul” for good reason. The hit songs that she and her band mates, the Pips, delivered throughout the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s left a unique gospel-pop imprint on the pages of American music history.
It is for this and so many other reasons that Knight seems to be the perfect voice to lend dignity and beauty to professional football’s great national anthem moment this year.
Super Bowl LIII is set to take place on February 3 in Atlanta, Georgia, where the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots will battle to determine which team will ultimately secure the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Look for “The Star-Spangled Banner” performed by Knight to provide a graceful air of decorum to the pre-game ceremony and give an assist to a National Football League (NFL) in need of an image boost after suffering through the aftermath of some high-profile political posturing.
Knight began singing at the tender age of four. By age seven, she had secured a win for an appearance that she made in 1952 on “Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour.”
The following year Knight’s family formed a musical group, which they dubbed “the Pips,” a name derived from that of a cousin of Knight, James “Pip” Woods. The group would later come to be known as “Gladys Knight and the Pips,” which would be the vehicle that would ultimately propel Knight to superstardom.
Knight has an ecumenical faith background, having been born a Baptist, attended a Catholic grade school, and converted in the late 1990s to the Mormon church, the place in which she would create the Grammy Award-winning “Saints Unified Voices” gospel music choir.
The soul singer’s upcoming performance of the national anthem comes at a time following former member of the San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick’s game setting launch of a political protest.
Kaepernick’s protest began in 2016, during the third pre-season 49ers game in which he sat (and in later games knelt), instead of standing up with his teammates and the stadium fans as the national anthem was sung.
Kaepernick’s mode of protest, which continued throughout the season during the pre-game singing of the anthem, was offensive to many and distinctly out of place. It ended up hitting the NFL hard in the pocketbook, as some football players attempted to show their support for Kaepernick by emulating him.
The demonstrations by dissenting players during the anthem infuriated a significant number of football fans. However, liberal Hollywood elites and like-minded media outlets collectively nodded in unison and proceeded to lionize the protesting players.
Sports attire giant Nike added fuel to the football fire by making Kaepernick the poster boy of a signature advertising campaign. Kaepernick remains embroiled in a grievance arbitration filed against the NFL in which he alleges that team owners colluded to keep him out of the league after he lost out to being signed last season.
The whole Kaepernick controversy spilled over into this year’s Super Bowl halftime show preparations. Virtue signaling became all the rage as performers, which included singer Rihanna as well as rappers Cardi B and Jay-Z, declared that they would boycott the halftime show. Jay-Z even placed the following line in one of his tunes: “I said no to the Super Bowl, you need me, I don’t need you.”
Meanwhile, those who are currently slated to perform, including singer and judge on “The Voice” Adam Levine’s musical group Maroon 5 and rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi, are being slammed by the social media and pressured to withdraw. Scott has even received backlash via Kaepernick’s own Twitter account.
Knight recently issued a timely and sage statement to the public, using a Hollywood trade publication as her outlet.
“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight wrote as reported by Variety. “It is unfortunate that our national anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the national anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”
Knight’s statement continued, “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.”
In light of the disharmony caused by the behavior and rhetoric on the part of Kaepernick and his allies in Hollywood and the mainstream media, coupled with the inept response by NFL leadership, Knight’s voice is going to be a musical tonic for those who have a passion for football and unabashed love for America.