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My Chat with Gladys Knight

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

From Rockets to Red Glare

Speaking Topics for Corporate Events:

She’s a wonderfully ageless American personality, a 74 yr-old soul singer in the style of a Motown Queen, who recorded the R & B hit “Midnight Train to Georgia” in 1973.

It reached #1 on the charts and is a tune that every adult over the age of 35 has probably hummed at least once in their life.

45 years later in 2019, she sang the National Anthem at Super Bowl LIII. On top of that, she...
...may quite possibly be a costumed guest on the current TV show The Masked Singer (rumors are still afloat as of the publishing of this article)

& has now been an advocate for Diabetes research for more than 30 years.

I met Gladys Marie Knight back in 1996 at the American Diabetes Association conference in Boston: she as the national spokesperson, and I the ambassador for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals at the event.

We had a lovely conversation about life, perseverance, and triumph - and I was moved by this diminutive woman’s passion for improving lives…

FYI I knew she must have a close connection with the disease but it wasn’t til after meeting her that I discovered both her mother Elizabeth, and cousin Edward (one of the Pips) both suffered from – and unfortunately would later die from – diabetes.

Gladys and I speaking at the ADA conference. The Empress of Soul was engaged about Diabetes research.

I asked Gladys, “What moves you to do the tireless work you do for people with Diabetes”?

She responded, “My mom came to a show a couple years ago and told me afterwards backstage, ‘I could hear your wonderful voice darling, but I can no longer see you.” (Retinopathy complication of diabetes)

Talking about music’s healing properties,

I asked Gladys, “Were you surprised at the magnitude of the hit Midnight Train to Georgia?”

Gladys responded, “Well you know, there are a few moments in your life when the very second you hear something, meet someone, or even read something special, you know it’s going to stay with you for the rest of your life.”

Now being an average Joe, like most people, I don’t get to meet Motown legends very often, so I couldn’t wait to tell her this next extraordinary coincidence we shared. She was all ears to hear what it was:

6 years earlier in 1990, when I was in Saudi Arabia serving in Operation Desert Shield in the 82nd Airborne,

our battalion received a generous donation of brand-new cassette tapes from a then-famous music store called Sam Goody (for those that don’t know, a cassette was a 5 inch plastic-cased magnetic reel of tape that played music forward, and then needed to be rewound. Yes, REWINDING was a thing). 2000 cassettes from various artists meant every soldier would receive 1 or 2 albums to play - for as long as the corrosive sand and blistering heat would allow.

Hoo-ah(!) to the folks back home – you were awesome.

It was my turn to pick, and I reached into the large bin and pulled out… the Best of Gladys Knight & the Pips, a total childhood favorite of mine!

I played it every day on the mini-cassette player I had in my tent at Camp Red, and then took it with me when we deployed into Iraq for Desert Storm.

Upon hearing my story, Gladys flashed the most brilliant smile, hugged me unexpectedly, and said she absolutely loved the story...& the connection!

Our 10-minute encounter was eye opening for me,

and for her, well who knows?? I mean, at that moment little could she know that after bringing soul to the soldiers in Desert Storm, she’d be delivering the Anthem of freedom worldwide 20 years later.

And the ADA continues to fight the fight against Diabetes.


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Captain Joe Sacchetti served 2 tours in Iraq, commanding Ranger Scouts in the 82nd Abn & earning the Bronze Star Medal.

MIT's Exec Ed program in Strategy & Innovation teaches senior Business Managers to think like Leaders. me @

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Nicee blog post

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