Vocalist Ashley Hale will pay tribute the iconic soul singer Gladys Knight as part of the P.U.R.E. concert series produced by local singer Zandrina Dunning | Provided

Powerhouse vocalist Ashley Hale was born into a musical family, and her vocal prowess first became clear at just 5 years old when she sang in church. By 13, she landed her first lead theatrical role. Since then, Hale has continued to grace stages across the country and internationally in what she describes as “strong soul” parts, bringing together her love of singing with her passion for acting. 

Hale will take center stage at Fox Music House in North Charleston Dec. 3 during a tribute to soul music icon Gladys Knight as part of the local live music series called Peace, Unity, & Revival Through Entertainment (P.U.R.E.) produced by local singer Zandrina Dunning. 

“Gladys Knight is, I would say, one of the greatest singers of all time,” Hale told the City Paper. “Her voice and her songs transcend through time. I love her musical penmanship.” 

Hale treasures Knight’s music with The Pips from the 1970s just as much as she loves her contemporary albums, and she is not the only one. Knight, affectionately known as the “Empress of Soul,” celebrates a multi-decade career featuring genre-defining performances of ’60s and ’70s soul music such as “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia,” in addition to a bevy of other R&B and pop hits in subsequent decades. She’s a seven-time Grammy winner, an inductee in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone named her one of the 100 greatest singers of all time. 

Hale is a strong proponent of tribute performances, which she sees as chances to honor the timelessness of music no matter the decade and preserve the legacy of iconic artists. 

“To me, this is our way to pay homage to these artists,” she said. “Sometimes we pay homage to someone that is deceased — like Michael Jackson, James Brown, Aretha Franklin — but who actually needs to be paid homage are people who are still alive. They can still hear and see these things and see that their music is being kept alive.” 

The Charleston singer credits her mother for her diverse musical education, which is centered in gospel but also included classic jazz, soul and R&B performers. She names other icons like Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner alongside jazz giants like Nat King Cole and Gregory Porter as among her favorites.  

“My mom introduced me to music,” Hale said, “and music and acting ended up in the same arena for me.”

Hale has frequently appeared as backing vocalist in previous P.U.R.E. concert series, which highlight local, regional and national artists. The series has organized tributes to R&B and soul icons like Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross, all of which Hale performed in as a supporting artist. When Dunning and her musical director Stephen Washington approached Hale about taking the lead role in a tribute show to open season three of the P.U.R.E. concert series, Hale immediately thought of Gladys Knight.

“Some music transcends time, but music is always moving and changing,” Hale said. “We know we can keep it alive and keep it relevant for future generations — especially for those that have already grown up with the music — and reminisce on what it was.”

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