Midnight Train to Georgia

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"Midnight Train to Georgia"
Single by Gladys Knight & the Pips
from the album Imagination
B-side "Midnight Train to Georgia" (instrumental)
"Window Raisin' Granny" (optional)
Released August 1973
Format 7" vinyl single
Recorded 1973
Genre Soul
Length 3:55 (single version)
Label Buddah
Writer(s) Jim Weatherly
Producer(s) Tony Camillo & Gladys Knight & the Pips
Gladys Knight & the Pips singles chronology
"All I Need Is Time"
(1973)
"Midnight Train to Georgia"
(1978)
"I've Got to Use My Imagination"
(1978)

"Midnight Train to Georgia" is a 1973 number-one hit single by Gladys Knight & the Pips, their second release after departing Motown Records for Buddah Records. Written by Jim Weatherly, and included on the Pips' 1973 LP Imagination, "Midnight Train to Georgia" won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus and has become Knight's signature song.

Background[edit]

The theme of the song is how romantic love can conquer differences in background. The boyfriend of the song's narrator is a failed musician who left his native Georgia to move to Los Angeles to become a "superstar, but he didn't get far". He decides to give up, and "go back to the life he once knew." Despite the fact that she's settled and secure in herself, the narrator decides to move to Georgia with him:

"And I'll be with him
On that midnight train to Georgia
I'd rather live in his world
Than live without him in mine."

The song was originally written and performed by Jim Weatherly under the title "Midnight Plane to Houston," which he recorded on Jimmy Bowen's Amos Records. "It was based on a conversation I had with somebody... about taking a midnight plane to Houston," Weatherly recalls. "I wrote it as a kind of a country song. Then we sent the song to a guy named Sonny Limbo in Atlanta and he wanted to cut it on Cissy Houston... he asked if I minded if he changed the title to 'Midnight Train to Georgia.' And I said, I don't mind. Just don't change the rest of the song.'" Weatherly, in an interview with Gary James, stated that the phone conversation was with Farrah Fawcett and he used Fawcett and his friend Lee Majors, who she'd just started dating, "as kind of like characters."[1][2]

Cissy Houston recorded the song as "Midnite Train to Georgia" (spelled "Midnight ..." on the UK release) on a single released in 1973. Her version can be found on the CD Midnight Train to Georgia: The Janus Years.

Weatherly's publisher forwarded the song to Gladys Knight and the Pips, who followed Houston's lead and kept the title "Midnight Train to Georgia." The single debuted on the Hot 100 at number 71 and became the group's first number-one hit eight weeks later when it jumped from number 5 to number 1 on October 27, 1973, replacing "Angie" by the Rolling Stones. It remained in the top position for another week, thus attaining two weeks at number one. It was replaced by "Keep On Truckin' (Part 1)" by Eddie Kendricks. It also reached number one on the soul singles chart, their fifth on that chart.[3] On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number ten.

In her autobiography, Between Each Line of Pain and Glory, Gladys Knight wrote that she hoped the song was a comfort to the many thousands who come each year from elsewhere to Los Angeles to realize the dream of being in motion pictures or music, but then fail to realize that dream and plunge into despair.[4]

In 1999, "Midnight Train to Georgia" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It currently ranks #432 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Appearance in other media[edit]

The song was featured during a scene in the 1978 film The Deer Hunter by director Michael Cimino, in which the character Michael (Robert De Niro) searches for his friend Nick (Christopher Walken) in a strip club in Saigon as the girls gyrate to "Midnight Train to Georgia". The song was also featured in "Episode 210" of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, the episode "The Choice" of House, and the episode "Swimming Pools ... Movie Stars" of Will & Grace. Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr reenacted The Pips' dance moves from a live performance of the song for the American Idol finale.[5][6]

NBC invited Gladys Knight to the season two finale of Las Vegas. She sang "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" and "Midnight Train To Georgia".

In the movie He Was a Quiet Man, Elisha Cuthbert and Christian Slater do a gig of this song at a restaurant when Venessa (Cuthbert) gets released to home care from the hospital. Bob McConnel (Slater) does the Pips.

The song was also mentioned in "The Ice of Boston", a song on The Dismemberment Plan's 1997 album The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified.[7]

In 2013, the song is mentioned and later sung by cast members of the ABC sitcom Modern Family in the episode entitled, The Late Show.

Personnel[edit]

Track details[edit]

Initial track recorded at Venture Sound Studios, Hillsborough, New Jersey, 1973:[2]

  • Drums: Andrew Smith
  • Bass: Bob Babbitt
  • Guitar: Jeff Mironov (playing a 1955 Fender Stratocaster)
  • Electric piano: Tony Camillo

Overdubs recorded at Venture Sound Studios:

  • Vocals recorded in Detroit. Gladys Knight recorded her lead vocals in a single take, with a punch-in of a single line done later in New York City.
  • Recorded and mixed by Ed Stasium

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Angie" by The Rolling Stones
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
October 27, 1973 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Keep on Truckin' (Part 1)" by Eddie Kendricks
Preceded by
"Keep on Truckin' (Part 1)" by Eddie Kendricks
Billboard's Hot Soul Singles number one single
October 20, 1973 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"Space Race" by Billy Preston