Gladys Knight was one of five honorees Wednesday night (Dec. 28) at the Kennedy Center Honors. The Empress of Soul was feted with show-stopping performances from some of today’s biggest artists, including Garth Brooks.
After acknowledging Knight’s roots in country music, Brooks launched into a twangy version of “Midnight Train to Georgia.” He noted that the 1973 track was derived from a track by Jim Weatherly titled “Midnight Plane to Houston.”
Brooks infused a heavy amount of soul into the performance, worthy of Knight’s original version. He was aided in that department by three backing singers —a la the Pips—who filled in the familiar ad-libs. Check out a clip of the performance below.
Elsewhere in the ceremony, Knight was honored with performances by Ariana DeBose, Mickey Guyton, and long-time friend Patti LaBelle. At the end of Knight’s section of the awards, Brooks came back out on stage to join the three women for a final tribute.
President Joe Biden, who was also in attendance, said of Knight at the medal ceremony prior to the broadcast, “Gladys your voice has spoken to what breaks our hearts, what tears us apart, what lifts our spirits, what brings us together—what makes us human.”
“I’m humbled beyond words to be included amongst this prestigious group of individuals, both past and present,” Knight said of the honor. “You could never have told me as a young girl starting my career that I would be honored on a stage such as this, with artists and humanitarians such as these—it just wouldn’t have seemed possible.”
She continued, “It would have been the dream of all dreams. I have been blessed with so much in my life and this certainly stands with those achievements at the top of that list. To be honored as a Kennedy Center Honoree is among the highlights of my career. I stand here with my fans, my family, my friends, my team, and my faith in accepting such an amazing distinction. It is dedicated to all those who paved the path for me to be able to accomplish the wonderful blessings I’ve been able to receive.”
Knight was honored alongside Amy Grant, U2, George Clooney, and Tania León. The ceremony took place earlier this month on Dec. 4.
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for CMT/ViacomCBS