“How many ways can you say ‘I love you’? It’s been said a million ways before. You have to find a way that’s unique.” Truth Records artist Frederick Knight was talking about his songs, and he has spent his career singing and writing songs that say “I love you” in unique and memorable ways. And the ways Frederick has chosen to say “I love you” have proven that he is that rare commodity, an artist with staying power and total audience appeal, especially for an artist from the crucible of Southern rhythm and blues.
Much of Frederick’s time and energies since his smash hit of 1971, “I’ve Been Lonely So Long,” have been devoted to establishing and consolidating his business activities in his hometown, which include a publishing company, a production company, and a talent management company to help young performers, and he is negotiating for a label for some of his apprentices in song. In addition to operating these activities under the umbrella of Frederick Knight Enterprises, he continues to write songs for himself and other artists as well.
But this valiant Knight has certainly not moved completely away from the area he loves best—recording hit songs that say “I love you” memorably. “You have to have strong, meaningful lyrics first,” Frederick says. “You have to have lyrics that people can relate to. You say a certain thing in a song, and people say, yeah, I know, I’ve been there.”
One of the main things he especially wants now is to consolidate his position and that of others in his chosen trade. “In the time between 1971 and the present,” Frederick says, “I’ve been preparing myself, concentrating on the business end of the record business. We as black entertainers for years and years mastered the ‘show’ end but fell short on the ‘business’ end. I don’t want it to happen to me or to others in my immediate circle. I don’t want to wake up someday and look around and have to say, ‘What happened?’”
Emphasizing the importance of being a versatile artist, Frederick continues, “As an artist, even a superstar, your time is limited in rock and roll or R&B, and an artist needs some type of cushion. After a certain age, it’s hard for you to relate to the kids from the stage. But a 90-year-old man can write a hit song as long as his brain is working.”
Born in Bessemer, Alabama, where he still lives, Frederick is a Leo (August 15, 1944), with a Leo’s qualities of friendliness, outspokenness, joviality, self-confidence, and the ability to go after what he wants and usually get it. But it took a while before he knew what he really wanted to do. Becoming a teacher was a likelihood-there were many teachers in his family-but Frederick knew early that teaching wasn’t for him. While at J.S. Abrams High School in Bessemer, he played with several bands and sang in the chorus, and then he received a music scholarship to Alabama A&M College in Huntsville. When he left A&M, he went to New York City to make it in music in the big time. That effort and a variety of jobs didn’t work, though, and Frederick returned home to stay with his music. Later, he sent a demo tape to Elijah Walker, and that led to his signing with the Stax Organization.
His first release with the Memphis record company was his first gold single, “I’ve Been Lonely for So Long,” and he has followed that initial smash with many other hits, including recent songs like “Passing Thru,” “I Betcha Didn’t Know That,” and “I Wanna Play With You” on Truth Records (a division of Stax).
Frederick Knight has now found his role in life, and while he’s not standing in front of a classroom passing information to more or less eager ears, he is teaching millions of people some valuable ideals-such as the worth of love and the need for securing one’s own position in order to be able to function effectively. And the hits will continue to pour out as Frederick keeps saying “I love you” in unique and memorable ways.