After Verzuz’s rousing reception for its Brandy and Monica showdown, the Internet’s favorite friendly music competition will host another pair of R&B superstars, undisputed legends Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle for a clash Sunday (Sept. 13). The two vocal powerhouses, who began their commercial music careers in the early 1960s, will likely curate their 20-song set lists from throughout their storied careers, both from their solo eras and as the frontwomen of their respective R&B groups.
Ahead of the contest, Billboard runs down the highlights of both women’s chart careers, lined with the biggest hits likely to populate each singer’s setlist.
Seniority first gives priority to Knight, who first reached Billboard’s charts in 1961 as the lead singer of Gladys Knight and The Pips. That year, “Every Beat of My Heart” introduced the group to national audiences as the song rose to No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 that June. Knight and The Pips’ next release, however, kick-started their real run of success, as “Letter Full of Tears” cracked the top 40 with a No. 19 showing and soared to No. 3 on Hot R&B Singles (today’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart).
“Tears” marked the first of 30 R&B top 10s for the group, a collection that includes some of its best-known classics such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” a six-week champ in 1967; “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye),” a four-week leader in 1973; and perhaps the act’s most famous single, “Midnight Train to Georgia,” which topped the chart for four weeks, in addition to becoming its only No. 1 on the Hot 100.
Unlike most of the early era soul groups, the Pips endured well into the ’80s, topping the R&B charts with 1988’s “Love Overboard,” more than 25 years after their arrival. Shortly after, Knight went solo and added two more R&B top 10s: “Men” (No. 2, 1991) and “Missing You,” a collaboration with Brandy, Tamia, and Chaka Khan from the Set It Off soundtrack (No. 10, 1996).
Let’s distill that huge roster of hits into Gladys Knight’s 10 biggest hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (solo and with The Pips), many of which seem likely to make an appearance on Sunday’s showdown.
Rank, Song Title, Peak Position, Peak Date
1. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” No. 1 (six weeks), Dec. 2, 1967
2. “Midnight Train to Georgia,” No. 1 (four weeks), Oct. 20, 1973
3. “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye),” No. 1 (four weeks), March 17, 1973
4. “Love Overboard,” No. 1 (one week), Jan. 23, 1988
5. “If I Were Your Woman,” No. 1 (one week), Jan. 23, 1971
6. “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” No. 1 (two weeks), April 6, 1974
7. “Save the Overtime (for Me),” No. 1 (one week), May 28, 1983
8. “On and On,” No. 2, June 22, 1974
9. “I Feel a Song (In My Heart),” No. 1 (two weeks), Nov. 30, 1974
10. “Men,” No. 2, Aug. 17, 1991
On to Patti LaBelle, who, like Knight, began her career as the lead vocalist of a group — Patti LaBelle and The Blue Belles. The Philadelphia quartet made its Billboard arrival in 1963 with “Down the Aisle (Wedding Song).” The track hit No. 14 on Hot R&B Singles and crossed into the Hot 100’s top 40 (No. 37).
The Blue Belles, with LaBelle out front, notched further R&B hits amid a series of lineup shifts, including the loss of founding member Cindy Birdsong to The Supremes in the mid-’60s. The group settled under a new name, LaBelle, in the ’70s, just in time for its biggest hit, “Lady Marmalade,” which shot to No. 1 on both the Hot 100 and R&B rankings in 1975.
Despite that smash, the group split the following year. Its former leader, now solo, struggled to match the group’s successes initially, but kicked off a strong run in the ’80s that crested in the middle of the decade with the R&B No. 1s “If You Only Knew” (four weeks, 1984), “On My Own,” a duet with Michael McDonald (four weeks, 1986), and seven more top 10s, including “New Attitude” and “Stir It Up.”
As with Knight, LaBelle maintained her hitmaking ability into the ’90s with such hits as “Somebody Loves You Baby” and “The Right Kinda Lover,” more than 30 years into her career.
Here’s a look at Patti LaBelle’s top-performing solo and group hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Rank, Song Title, Artist, Peak Position, Peak Date
1. “On My Own,” with Michael McDonald, No. 1 (four weeks), May 17, 1986
2. “If You Only Knew,” No. 1 (four weeks), Jan. 28, 1984
3. “Feels Like Another One,” No. 3, Nov. 30, 1991
4. “Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is),” No. 2, March 28, 1992
5. “Love Has Finally Come at Last,” with Bobby Womack, No. 3, April 7, 1984
6. “Lady Marmalade,” No. 1 (one week), Feb. 22, 1975
7. “When You’ve Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven),” No. 4, July 4, 1992
8. “Yo Mister,” No. 6, Dec. 16, 1989
9. “New Attitude,” No. 3, March 30, 1985
10. “The Right Kinda Lover,” No. 8, July 23, 1994
Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle’s Biggest Billboard Hits are based on actual performance on the weekly Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, through Sept. 12, 2020. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at lower ranks earning lesser values. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, certain eras are weighted to account for different chart turnover rates over various periods.
BONUS: As with Brandy and Monica last week, expect a moment on the Verzuz showdown for the two legends to unite. Knight and LaBelle, along with Dionne Warwick, released the collaboration “Superwoman” in 1991. Though the track did not reach a Billboard chart, it did find favor with critics and industry insiders and secured a Grammy Award nomination for best R&B performance by a duo or group.