Gladys gets the shaft when it comes to public recognition of her as one of the greatest soul singers of all time. Maybe it’s her lack of flashiness. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s her lack of flashiness. Aretha is sometimes literally larger than life, Patti’s the most histrionic singer in history, Chaka’s a hot mess. Gladys is like the student who wears a plaid shirt and jeans every day, sits right in the middle of the classroom, and has quietly turned in B+ exams all year, with the occasional A. He/she doesn’t get into fights with classmates, doesn’t speak out of turn, barely even raises a hand.
“Best Thing…” came from Gladys & The Pips mid ‘70s imperial period, hit the top 5 on the pop charts and crowned the R&B list. A line from the song “between each line of pain and glory” provided the title for Gladys’s memoirs. From my vantage point, it’s one of her most moving, affecting vocals. She sells the hell out of Jim Weatherly’s lyrics. “Poignant” is a good word to use when describing this song.
The Pips, as usual, do the grunt work. And they, as usual, do it admirably. If Gladys is the dependable, blue collar lunch pail worker of female divas, then The Pips are the dependable, blue collar, lunch pail workers of vocal groups.