21. Midnight Train to Georgia, Gladys Knight & Pips

Silky-smooth and warm-hearted, this song tells a tale of love that chills me every time: “I’d rather live in his world…than live without him in mine.” This is to Motown as Bonnard is to the Impressionists; it incorporates the innovations but adds the veneer of a later decade. The Pips in the background echo the moves of the Temptations, but their vocals don’t merely echo the lead singer, they advance the story! Gladys: “LA…grew too much for the man.” Pips: “…too much for the man – he couldn’t make it.” Gladys: “…..superstar” Pips: “A superstar, but he didn’t get far.” The instrumentation is unsurpassed. The chorus of strings flows and swells, then the Memphis horns punch in, eliminating any threat of mawkishness. Then from her controlled narrative voice, Gladys erupts at the end with a guttural “I got to go, I got to go” that just makes you wish she didn’t. Let that train keep rolling on. “Woo-hoo!”

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