Midnight Train to Georgia
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|"Midnight Train to Georgia"|
|Single by Gladys Knight & the Pips|
|from the album Imagination|
|Format||7" vinyl single|
4:38 (album version)|
3:55 (single version)
|Producer(s)||Tony Camillo & Gladys Knight & the Pips|
|Gladys Knight & the Pips singles chronology|
"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.
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.'" 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, whom she had just started dating, "as kind of like characters."
Weatherly, at a program in Nashville, said he was the quarterback at the University of Mississippi, the NFL didn't work out for him, so he was in LA 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 LA on the midnight plane - which brought the idea of a "superstar, but he didn't get far."
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.
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 two weeks. 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. 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.
Appearance in other media
The song was featured during a scene in the 1978 film The Deer Hunter by director Michael Cimino, in which the character Nick (Christopher Walken) - having left the military hospital - is visiting a strip club in Saigon as the girls gyrate to "Midnight Train to Georgia". "Episode 210" of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock features an extensive parody of the song, punctuated by a cameo from Knight herself. The song was also featured in the episode "The Choice" of House, and the episode "Swimming Pools ... Movie Stars" of Will & Grace.
Garry Trudeau did a Sunday color Doonesbury comic strip featuring this song and an un-named song/dance group; it was published on July 28, 1974. It has been informally referred to as the "Beats Working" strip.
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.
It was also used in a Series 6 episode of "House" named "Choice" when Chase sang it at a karaoke bar with House and Foreman as his backing singers.
It was also used during an episode of Scandal in 2015.
Covered by Crystal Bowersox in American Idol.
- Lead vocals by Gladys Knight
- Background vocals by Merald "Bubba" Knight, Eddie Patten, and William Guest
- Written by Jim Weatherly
- Produced by Tony Camillo
- Co-produced by Gladys Knight, Merald "Bubba" Knight, Eddie Patten, and William Guest
Initial track recorded at Venture Sound Studios, Hillsborough, New Jersey, 1973:
- Drums: Andrew Smith
- Bass: Bob Babbitt
- Guitar: Jeff Mironov (playing a 1955 Fender Stratocaster)
- Wurlitzer electric piano: Tony Camillo
Overdubs recorded at Venture Sound Studios:
- Acoustic piano: Barry Miles
- Hammond organ: Tony Camillo
- Percussion: Tony Camillo
- Violin: Norman Carr
- Cello: Jesse Levy
- Trumpet: Randy Brecker
- Saxophone: Michael Brecker
- Trombone: Meco Monardo
- Vocals were recorded at Artie Fields Studio in Detroit. Gladys Knight recorded her lead vocals in a single take. She later recorded a punch-in of a single line in New York City.
- Recorded and mixed by Ed Stasium
Notable cover versions
- Regina Love - The Voice (U.S. season 9) Knockouts (2015)
- Aretha Franklin - Aretha Sings the Great Diva Classics (2014)
- Garth Brooks - Blame It All On My Roots (2013)
- Cissy Houston - Presenting Cissy Houston (2012) re-issue
- Neil Diamond - Dreams (2010)
- Joan Osborne - Breakfast in Bed (2007)
- Renée Geyer - Tenderland (2003).
- Indigo Girls - 1200 Curfews (1995)
- Starrkeisha - YouTube (2016)
- 30 Rock - original television cast (2010)
- "Midnight Train to Georgia". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
- Junior, Chris M. (14 April 2010). "Hop aboard the midnight train to Georgia with Gladys Knight & The Pips". Goldmine. F+W. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 330.
- Between Each Line of Pain and Glory: My Life Story, by Gladys Knight. p. 187.
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca.
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1973-12-15. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
- Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
- Cash Box Top 100 Singles, November 10, 1973
- Canada, Library and Archives (July 13, 2017). "Image : RPM Weekly".
- Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1973
- Canada, Library and Archives (January 16, 2018). "Image : RPM Weekly".
- "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.
- Video on YouTube
- "The Ice Of Boston Lyrics - Dismemberment Plan". Sing365.com. 2002-08-25. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
- Austin, Dan. "Alhambra Theatre — Historic Detroit". Historicdetroit.org. Retrieved 2016-10-08.