On Saturday, iconic soul singer Gladys Knight was celebrated for her illustrious career in the music industry by Kennedy Center Honors, reports NPR. The other honorees were Amy Grant, George Clooney, Tania León and U2—who were all recognized for their contributions to American culture.
Among the attendees at the gala were President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Douglass Emhoff.
Born in Georgia and known as “The Empress of Soul,” Knight came to prominence in the 1960s with her family group Gladys Knight & the Pips along with her brother Merald "Bubba" Knight and cousins William Guest and Edward Patten.
She has recorded two number-one Billboard Hot 100 singles, the classics "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "That's What Friends Are For,” eleven number-one R&B singles, and six number-one R&B albums.
A seven-time Grammy Award winner (four as a solo artist and three with the Pips), Knight was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame along with The Pips in 2001.
Clooney recalled a scene from the dinner where the honorees received their medallions and Knight gave everyone a mini-concert at dinner.
"Gladys got up and sang and, you know, just a cappella started to sing. ... The only thing that was terrible was that I had to follow,” he said. “So there's 300 people in the room going, this is transcendent—and I'm like 'God, this is horrible! I have to follow Gladys Knight!"
Presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC, the Kennedy Center Honors “are bestowed upon artists with exemplary bodies of work across different fields.”
The Kennedy Center Honors will air on CBS on December 28, 2022.