That Haunting Vocal On ‘Gimme Shelter’

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Merry ClaytonIf you haven’t seen the 2013 Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, by all means seek it out. It’s about the unheralded backup singers that added the “special sauce” to so many outstanding songs in pop and rock ’n’ roll.

Here, we focus on Merry Clayton, the soul singer who made an indelible impact on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” (and also sang with Ray Charles, Tom Jones, Linda Ronstadt and others). We’ll let Merry explain the circumstances:

“It was very late at night, [I] had curlers… in my head, and was ready to go to bed. I got a call… there’s a group of guys in town called The Rolling somebodies… and they need somebody that will sing with them. They picked me up with silk pajamas on, a mink coat and a Chanel scarf on my head.”

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Mick Jagger adds: “We said it would be wonderful if a woman sang this part that I’d written about rape, murder and all this. It was in the middle of the night and we thought we’d love to have a woman sing this part. It was kind of a raunchy part to sing.”

Clayton: “I said ‘What? Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away’?” When you watch this Classic Video, remember that she was just 20-years-old and pregnant when she sang that haunting vocal in November 1969.

Sadly, according to the Los Angeles Times, Clayton suffered a miscarriage when she returned home from the studio that morning. Years later, in 2014, she was injured in an auto accident that required both of her legs to be amputated below the knees. She turned 68 on Christmas day.

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Best Classic Bands Staff

Best Classic Bands Staff

The BCB team brings you the latest Breaking News, Contests, On This Day rock history stories, Classic Videos, retro-Charts and more.
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