Gladys Knight is not only in the TV spotlight as a “Dancing With the Stars” contestant — she’s also planning for the launch of her first album in six years, “Another Journey,” next month. Among the helping hands producing the recording is “American Idol’s” Randy Jackson, who won a Grammy for co-producing her “At Last” album in 2001.
“Yeah, I’m still working with big Dawg Randy,” says the legendary Empress of Soul with a laugh. “That’s my buddy. I’m finally coming out with that album. People kept asking me for it. I really thought I was through with recording, to tell you the truth.”
She says she’s been amazed to hear Gladys Knight and the Pips songs being sung by contestants on “Idol.” “It does my heart good to know I did something that’s lasted all these years, and that they feel the music we did is worthy enough to choose to perform at such an important moment in their lives. That’s how I feel about it: ‘This is your time to shine, and you chose my song.’”
Now is her time to shine as a dancer. Asked for a progress report on her training, she says, “I’m doing pretty good. I’m kind of shocking myself, because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do this. I think a lot of it is due to my partner, Tristan (McManus), and how he teaches and how patient he is.”
Is Gladys a natural dancer? “Noooo.” She laughs. “You would think so, honey, with all them Pips dancing around me all the time, but they never let me dance, you know? I used to want to learn the routines of the Pips and in the beginning I did. Then Pops said, ‘Ok, look. This is how it is, Baby. You’re a lady. So you’ll strut and the Pips will dance.’ And that’s how they set it up.”
The 67-year-old grandmother of 17 has been keeping up her concert tour schedule, training with McManus while on the road. She is in the midst of a two-week break as we speak, expecting to get back out for gigs in Canada and Mississippi after tonight’s and tomorrow night’s shows. “Is that crazy or what? But when I perform, our engagements are set months in advance and there were things I just couldn’t cancel,” she explains.
Where does all her energy come from? “Well, I try to eat right, and, you know, exercise is always good for you. I had fallen off the wagon, so to speak, in terms of exercise, but dancing gives me my cardio. It’s working out pretty good.”