Midnight Train to Georgia

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"Midnight Train to Georgia"
Single by Gladys Knight & the Pips
from the album Imagination
  • "Midnight Train to Georgia" (instrumental)
  • "Window Raisin' Granny" (optional)
ReleasedAugust 1973
Length4:38 (album version)
3:55 (single version)
Songwriter(s)Jim Weatherly
Producer(s)Tony Camillo & Gladys Knight & the Pips Engineer/Mixer Ed Stasium
Gladys Knight & the Pips singles chronology
"All I Need Is Time"
"Midnight Train to Georgia"
"I've Got to Use My Imagination"
"Midnight Train to Georgia" on YouTube

"Midnight Train to Georgia" is a song most famously performed 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" became the group's first single to top the Billboard Hot 100. It also won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus and has become Knight's signature song.[5]

The song is sung from the perspective of someone whose lover, having failed to become a Hollywood star, is leaving Los Angeles to move back to Georgia, taking the titular "midnight train". The singer expresses her commitment to joining him in Georgia: "I'll be with him.... I got to go."[6][7]


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 with 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.'"[8]

Weatherly, in a later interview with Gary James, stated that the phone conversation in question had been with Farrah Fawcett, and he used Fawcett and her friend Lee Majors, whom she had just started dating, "as kind of like characters."[9][10][11] Weatherly, at a program in Nashville, said he had been the quarterback at the University of Mississippi, and the NFL didn't work out for him, so he was in Los Angeles trying to write songs. He was in a rec football league with Lee Majors and called Majors one night. Farrah Fawcett answered the phone and he asked what she was doing. She said she was "taking the midnight plane to Houston" to visit her family. He thought that was a catchy phrase for a song, and in writing the song, wondered why someone would leave L.A. on the midnight plane – which brought the idea of a "superstar, but he didn't get far".[5]

Gospel/soul singer Cissy Houston recorded the song as "Midnite Train to Georgia" (spelled "Midnight ..." on the UK single) released in 1973. Her version can also be found on her albums Midnight Train to Georgia: The Janus Years (1995), and the reissue of her 1970 debut album, Presenting Cissy Houston originally released on Janus Records.[5]

Knight had changed record companies from Motown to Buddah Records, a company with a broader appeal.[5] Weatherly's publisher forwarded the Houston version to Gladys Knight and the Pips, who followed Houston's lead and kept the title "Midnight Train to Georgia" but changed the character of the song. Tony Camillo and Ed Stasium recorded and produced the Al Green inspired instrumental backing track using a basic band set-up.[5] The vocal recording introduced Knight to ad-libbing towards the end, assisted by her brother. The Pips featured prominently in the call-and-response aspect of the song.[5]

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 two weeks.[5] 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.[12] The record was awarded an RIAA Gold single (for selling one million copies) on October 18, 1973. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number ten on June 5, 1976.[13]

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, television or music, but then fail to realize that dream and plunge into despair.[14]

In 1999, "Midnight Train to Georgia" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It currently ranks #470 on Rolling Stone's updated list of their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[15]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[25] Platinum 600,000
United States (RIAA)[26] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Appearance in other media[edit]

The song appears in the Vietnam War film The Deer Hunter, playing in a strip club in Saigon visited by Nick (Christopher Walken) in one scene.

The song plays a notable role in the 1987 film Broadcast News. The character Aaron Altman listens to the song while at home, upset at not being chosen to work on a special breaking news report. While reading a book and simultaneously juggling remotes for his stereo and his television to mute one or the other, he sings:

I can sing

while I read

I am singing

and reading both!

Episode 20 ("The Choice") of season 6 of the American medical drama House features a scene where the characters Gregory House, Robert Chase and Eric Foreman perform a karaoke rendition of the song.

Episode 210 of the TV series 30 Rock ends with Kenneth Parcell attempting to take the midnight train to Georgia after getting addicted to caffeine, only to return quickly noting that the train actually leaves at 23:45. The episode ends with a rendition of the song by most of the cast (and a speaking-only cameo by Knight herself).[27]

Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. re-enacted The Pips' dance moves from a live performance of the song for the season seven finale of American Idol.[28][29]

Garry Trudeau did a Sunday color Doonesbury comic strip[30][31] featuring this song, though Georgia was changed to the ignominious "Cranston" in Rhode Island, and an unnamed song/dance group; it was published on July 28, 1974. It has been informally referred to as the "Beats Working" strip.[32]

Episode 56 of Will and Grace featured the title characters posing as millionaires interested in purchasing Sandra Bernhard's co-op, with the latter inviting them to sing along during a rehearsal in which she was rehearsing this song. [33] Bernhard also performed the song during her 1998 one-woman show I'm Still Here... Damn It!

The song was mentioned in "The Ice of Boston", a song on The Dismemberment Plan's 1997 album The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified.[34]

The cast of Modern Family sing the chorus of the song in the Season 5 episode "The Late Show".

Sports channel FS1 used the song in their closing montage for the 2021 World Series, as the Atlanta Braves won the World Series that year.


Production and vocals

Track details

Initial track recorded at Venture Sound Studios, Hillsborough, New Jersey, 1973:[10]

Overdubs recorded at Venture Sound Studios:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Breihan, Tom (April 24, 2019). "The Number Ones: Gladys Knight & The Pips' "Midnight Train To Georgia"". Stereogum. Retrieved June 18, 2023. Working with the producer Tony Camillo, they gave it a sweltering slow-burn soul arrangement.
  2. ^ Stanley, Bob (13 September 2013). "This Is My Prayer: The Birth of Soul". Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop. Faber & Faber. p. 16]. ISBN 978-0-571-28198-5.
  3. ^ Rolling Stone Staff (15 September 2021). "500 Best Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 30 October 2022. "I never really imagined writing R&B songs," Weatherly admitted. "I really thought I was writing country songs." It reflected the times...
  4. ^ Kuge, Mara (7 February 2019). "14 Secretly Cruel Soft Rock Love Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Padgett, Ray (2017). Cover me : the stories behind the greatest cover songs of all time. New York. pp. 96–103. ISBN 978-1-4549-2250-6. OCLC 978537907.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ "The Problem With This Song: Midnight Train to Georgia". CBC Radio. July 15, 2016. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  7. ^ Smith, Danyel (April 19, 2022). "Why Gladys Knight and the Pips' 'Midnight Train to Georgia' is still the perfect pop song". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  8. ^ Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Billboard Books. pp. 357–. ISBN 978-0-8230-7677-2.
  9. ^ "Midnight Train to Georgia". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
  10. ^ a b Junior, Chris M. (14 April 2010). "Hop aboard the midnight train to Georgia with Gladys Knight & The Pips". Goldmine Magazine: Record Collector & Music Memorabilia. F+W. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  11. ^ Padgett, Ray (2017). Cover me : the stories behind the greatest cover songs of all time. New York. pp. 87–95. ISBN 978-1-4549-2250-6. OCLC 978537907.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  12. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 330.
  13. ^ a b "Gladys Knight & the Pips". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  14. ^ Between Each Line of Pain and Glory: My Life Story, by Gladys Knight. p. 187.
  15. ^ "Midnight Train to Georgia". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  16. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 2012-03-30. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  17. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1973-12-15. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  18. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  19. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, November 10, 1973". Archived from the original on June 9, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  20. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (July 13, 2017). "Image : RPM Weekly". Library and Archives Canada.
  21. ^ Musicoutfitters.com
  22. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1973". Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  23. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (January 16, 2018). "Image : RPM Weekly". Library and Archives Canada.
  24. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  25. ^ "British single certifications – Gladys Knight & the Pips – Midnight Train to Georgia". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  26. ^ "American single certifications – Gladys Knight & the Pips – Midnight Train to Georgia". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  27. ^ "Kenneth Takes the Midnight Train to Georgia - 30 Rock". NBC. 2008-01-10. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  28. ^ "AMERICAN IDOL Finale: Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr aka 'The Pips'". Give Me My Remote. 2008-05-21. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  29. ^ Video on YouTube
  30. ^ "Doonesbury", Boston Sunday Globe, July 28, 1974.
  31. ^ "Pips get no respect". August 15, 2015.
  32. ^ "All sizes | "Beats workin." Doonesbury on Gladys Knight and the Pips | Flickr - Photo Sharing!".
  33. ^ "Rob's 'Will & Grace' Page - "Swimming Pools... Movie Stars"". willandgrace.tv. Retrieved 2022-08-23.
  34. ^ "The Ice Of Boston Lyrics - Dismemberment Plan". Sing365.com. 2002-08-25. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  35. ^ Austin, Dan. "Alhambra Theatre — Historic Detroit". Historicdetroit.org. Retrieved 2016-10-08.

External links[edit]