Gladys Knight may have turned 75 in May, but the celebration is still going nearly five months later.
“I feel blessed,” Knight told reporters Sunday night on the red carpet outside Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz in Bel-Air, Calif. “Cause you know, we just will never know the hour, the moment, the day, the time that we’re supposed to go. So you should make the most of every moment.”
Adding of her 75 years and legendary career, Knight told Variety, “I am most proud of the spirit that I’ve had along the way. Not letting it take you over and take you somewhere else that He didn’t plan for you to go.”
Taking a break from a world tour, the “Empress of Soul” celebrated her milestone birthday in regal fashion, with a guest list that featured fellow music superstars Diane Warren, La Toya Jackson, Lalah Hathaway and David and Katharine Foster, as well as Billy Dee Williams, George Wallace, Tommy Chong and “The Real’s” Loni Love, all gushing about the chance salute Knight in person.
“I have to get up and go to work at 4 in the morning,” Love told Variety. “We have to celebrate our icons while they’re here, and so that’s why it was so important for me to get up and do this. It’s just the things that she has done in history as far as being a great actress or great singer, to be able to record the span of time, you know, and she still to this day is doing things, you see on ‘The Masked Singer,’ you see her on ‘Showtime at the Apollo’. She just keeps working and that just lets you know that she’s a true entertainer.”
But what do you get a music legend for such an important occasion? Love laughed, “I just got her a Target gift card. I was like, you know, everybody needs something from Target, so I was like ‘Let me just get her this gift card.’ And that way, you know, I think it was like 100 bucks…splurge, on me, Gladys.”
“I grew up in Flint, Michigan, and when I was a kid she was already a mega star, so we used to play her at the house,” Terry Crews explained of his love for Knight, recalling watching the singer perform on Richard Pryor’s show. “I just remember how iconic that was because at the time there were only three channels and that was it. And when you were famous…when you were black on TV, everybody was tied in and like, ‘Oh my God, did you see last night?’ You know, it was all what everybody talked about and she was just a mainstay.”
Of getting the chance to party alongside his idol, the actor and television host quipped, “I want to be an honorary Pip tonight, my name is Terry Pip Crews!”
And Crews — who attended the party with his wife and fellow Knight super-fan Rebecca — got his chance to join in on the musical tribute during the “One Knight in October” celebration, hosted by Knight’s good friend, philanthropist Rafi Anteby. Knight was honored with videotaped messages from friends and fans like Jamie Foxx, Chrissy Metz, Linda Thompson, Smokey Robinson and Motown’s Berry Gordy, as well as a video retrospective of her life and career that played after guests enjoyed a three-course dinner.
But the highlight of the evening was the jam session featuring Taylor Dayne, Chanté Moore, Freda Payne, V. Bozeman, Brie Capone, Louis Price and Al B. Sure. Grammy-nominated singer MAJOR pulled Knight in for a brief duet of his hit song, “Why I Love You,” altering the lyrics to pay tribute to the songstress. Hathaway did the honors of singing “Happy Birthday” to Knight, who blew out the candles on a decadent cake before heading to the stage for her finale performance that included “Love Overboard” and “Neither One of Us.” Knight closed out the evening with a performance of her classic “Midnight Train to Georgia” (with Crews taking his place onstage as a fill-in Pip) before hitting the final notes just before 11 p.m.