Gladys Knight & the Pips – Midnight Train to Georgia

I remember watching Gladys Knight and the Pips perform this on television when I was a small kid.

“Midnight Train To Georgia” was not only a #1 hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B, but also a #10 on the UK Singles chart. It garnered the group the 1974 Grammy Award for “Best R&B Vocal Performance” and was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

The song was written by Jim Weatherly…here he explained how he wrote the song… Who would have thought Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett Majors would have anything to do with it.

“The song actually came about after a phone call I had with Farrah Fawcett. Lee Majors was a friend of mine. We’d played in the Flag Football League together in L.A. He had just started dating Farrah. One day I called Lee and Farrah answered the phone. We were just talking and she said she was packing. She was gonna take the midnight plane to Houston to visit her folks. So, it just stayed with me. After I got off the phone, I sat down and wrote the song probably in about 30 to 45 minutes. Something like that. Didn’t take me long at all, ’cause I actually used Farrah and Lee as kind of like characters I guess. A girl that comes to L.A. to make it and doesn’t make it and leaves to go back home. The guy goes back with her. Pretty simple little story, but it felt real to me. It felt honest to me. I played it for them and they loved it. I cut it on my first album as ‘Midnight Plane To Houston.’ And then later on, maybe a year or six months later, a guy in Atlanta wanted to cut the song on Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother. They called and said they would like a more R&B sounding title and asked if we would mind if they changed the title to ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ [so that “Houston” wouldn’t appear in both the title and artist name]. We said ‘change anything but the writer and publisher.’ So, he cut the song on Cissy Houston and it was a nice little cross between an R&B and country record. It got on the R&B charts. That’s the version that Gladys heard. Some of the background vocals you hear on Glady’s records were first on Cissy Houston’s record. It wasn’t as much, but just some of the feel of the background vocals. And of course, Gladys’ record was more of a groove-oriented thing. It wasn’t as slow. It just became a monster record.”

Here is a better detailed write up about it by Dave from “A Sound Day”

 

From Songfacts.

This was written and originally recorded by Jim Weatherly, who had a solo hit in 1974 with “The Need To Be”

Gladys Knight & The Pips recorded Weatherly’s “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” in 1973 and released it as a kiss-off record as their contract to Motown Recording Company (Soul Record) was expiring. “Neither One of Us” was their biggest Motown/Soul hit, reaching #2 as the group signed with Buddha Records. When they decided to record an album consisting of only Jim Weatherly songs (Imagination), his publisher sent a copy of the song to Knight. This was the second single from the album, after “Where Peaceful Waters Flow.” It became the group’s biggest hit. The third and fourth singles off the album didn’t do too badly either – “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination” peaked at #4 in the US, “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” #3.

This title is name-checked in Billy Crystal’s 1989 TV special Midnight Train to Moscow.

Films and television shows in which “Midnight Train To Georgia” is part of the soundtrack include The Deer Hunter, 30 Rock, House M.D., Broadcast News, and Las Vegas. It also gets its day in the sun in the 1974 episode of VH1’s I Love the ’70s: Volume 2. Richard Pryor (we still miss him) also used it in his 1977 special.

You might ask what, exactly, a “pip” is besides Knight’s backing singers. Well, a ‘pip’ is casino/gaming jargon for the spots on a die or domino. So when you’re at a craps table and you roll a “hard 8” on the dice, that means that there’s four pips showing on the face of each die, as opposed to an “easy 8” which would be the statistically more common 2-6 or 3-5 combinations of pips.

Other songs involving trains include “Last Train To Clarksville,” “City Of New Orleans”, “Love Train”, “Runaway Train”, and of course Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”, which also has a “midnight train.” Train themes seem to be most popular in folk music and R&B.

This song has special relevance when you consider 21st century online dating, which unites partners over the internet who are separated by a great distance. The decision the protagonist has to make, choosing to move to Georgia to “live in his world,” is a common one that people have to eventually face if they start a long-distance relationship.

Midnight Train to Georgia

L.A. Proved too much for the man
Too much for the man, he couldn’t make it
So he’s leavin’ the life he’s come to know uhoo
He said he’s goin’
He said he’s goin’ back to find
Goin’ back to find
Ooh, what’s left of his world
The world he left behind
Not so long ago

He’s leavin’ (leavin’)
On that midnight train to Georgia
Leavin’ on the midnight train
Said he’s goin’ back
Goin’ back to find
To a simpler place in time
Oh yes he is

And I’ll be with him (I know you will)
On that midnight train to Georgia (leavin’ on the midnight train to Georgia)
I’d rather live in his world
Than live without him in mine
That world is his, his and ‘ers alone

He kept dreamin’ (dreamin’)
That someday he’d be a star
A super star, but he didn’t get far
But he sure found out the hard way
That dreams don’t always come true
So he pawned all his hopes
And he even sold his old car
Bought a one way ticket back
To the life he once knew
Oh yes he did
He said he would

Oh oh he’s leavin’
On that midnight train to Georgia (leavin’ on the midnight train)
Said he’s goin’ back to find
Oh a simpler place in time

And I’m gonna be with him (I know you will)
On that midnight train to Georgia
I’d rather live in his world
Than be without him in mine

The world is his, his and ‘ers alone
Oh he’s leavin’
On that midnight train to Georgia (leavin’ on the midnight train)
Said he’s goin’ back to find (goin’ back to find)
Oh a simpler place in time

And I’ve gotta be with him (I know you will)
On the midnight train to Georgia
I’d rather live in his world
Than be without him in mine

The world is his, his and ‘ers alone
For love gonna board
The midnight train to Georgia
For love gonna board
The midnight train to Georgia

For love gonna board
The midnight train to Georgia
For love gonna board
The midnight train to Georgia
For love gonna board
The midnight train to Georgia

For love gonna board
The midnight train to Georgia
For love gonna board
The midnight train to Georgia
For love gonna board
The midnight train to Georgia
For love gonna board
The midnight train to Georgia

Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

19 thoughts on “Gladys Knight & the Pips – Midnight Train to Georgia”

    1. Lol that is great…that name would have boosted their notoriety.
      They mesmerized me with this song on one of the countless variety shows. It stuck with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks for the compliment and link! I think we both agree it’s one of the best soul records from that era. Although she certainly did a lot more, it’s one song where even if it was her only hit, we’d remember her name

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problem Dave. After I wrote it and found that interview…I was thinking hey…I’ve read about this before and I remembered… Yes, it is my favorite from them for sure.

      Like

      1. 70s power couple. As a kid, l always thought Lee belonged with Lindsay Wagner because of my Bionic Woman fondness. Farrah was stunning, no doubt but, I preferred Lindsay. I wanted her to be my mom. We are the same height & build.

        Lindsay, Olivia & Lynda…my heroines. And…I am SO off topic. Sorry…🙄

        Thanks for sharing. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh Lindsey was awesome…I never was a big Farrah fan….my favorite Angel? I get weird looks… Kate Jackson…I don’t know why.

        I always go off topic…always…My mind rambles about.

        Like

      3. I had such a crush on Kate Jackson…she was the smart one!
        I have problem rambling. People have politely hit the like button without answering a quesiton because I would ask something completely off subject…Maybe it is part that IT thing…that troubleshooting mentality.

        Like

      4. You know, that is an interesting point. In the course of tracking down issues, we wander. I think of it as following threads in the tapestry. Troubleshooting was always a fun challenge. So is researching history…if I can find it. Sometimes, there are dead ends.

        Plus, blog material will sometimes fire a memory that is only remotely associated. I end up going “That reminds me…” Heh.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. In troubleshooting sometimes you have to think outside of the box and your mind goes everywhere. That is the reason I got into IT is because I like to fix things and think outside of the box.

        Yes, many things have come back to me because of reading a blog or writing one…the comments add to that.

        Like

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