Midnight Train to Georgia
|"Midnight Train to Georgia"|
|Single by Gladys Knight & the Pips|
|from the album Imagination|
"Midnight Train to Georgia" (instrumental)|
"Window Raisin' Granny" (optional)
|Format||7" vinyl single|
|Length||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 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." Even though she is 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 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 he 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 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. 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 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.
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.
Featured in the 2014 film, The Equalizer, as a nod to a Gladys Knight & the Pips reference made early in the film.
It was also used during an episode of Scandal in 2015.
- 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
- Drums: Andrew Smith
- Bass: Bob Babbitt
- Guitar: Jeff Mironov (playing a 1955 Fender Stratocaster)
- 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)
- Indigo Girls - 1200 Curfews ( 1995 )
- Starrkeisha - Youtube (2016)
- "Midnight Train to Georgia". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
- 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.
- "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.
"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
"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