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How ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ Gave Gladys Knight and the Pips a Fresh Start

Gladys Knight and the Pips were two decades into their career when they released their signature song. Formed in 1952, the legendary band comprised of Gladys Knight, her brother Bubba Knight and their cousins William Guest and Edward Patten were signed to Motown Records in 1966. However, they found their time to on the label to be an uphill battle, with acts like Marvin Gaye, the Temptations and the Supremes given priority.

Their 1973 signing to Buddha Records gave them a fresh start. For their debut single on the label, they recorded a new version of Jim Weatherly’s folk-y track “Midnight Plane to Houston.” Knight and the Pips ended up pulling from a Cissy Houston cover of Weatherly song, that had already changed the city and mode of transportation. The rest is history, with “Midnight Train to Georgia” becoming the group’s signature track.

On this week’s episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs, hosts Rob Sheffield and Brittany Spanos discuss “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips. They’re joined by the song’s engineer and mixer Ed Stadium, who shares an alternate version of the song from his archives.

In 2004, Rolling Stone launched its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Tabulated from a massive vote that had artists, industry figures, and critics weighing in, the list has been a source of conversation, inspiration, and controversy for two decades. It’s one of the most popular, influential, and argued-over features the magazine has ever done.

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So we set out to make it even bigger, better, and fresher. In 2021, we completely overhauled our 500 Songs list, with a whole new batch of voters from all over the music map. Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs takes a closer look at the entries on our list. Made in partnership with iHeart, Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs finds Brittany and Rob discussing a new song each week, delving into its history and impact with the help of a special guest — including fellow RS colleagues, producers, and the artists themselves. It’s our celebration of the greatest songs ever made — and a breakdown of what makes them so great.

Check out the latest episode above, on iHeart, or wherever you get your podcasts, and look for new episodes every Wednesday.

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