Mick Jagger Tells the Story Behind ‘Gimme Shelter’ and Merry Clayton’s Haunting Background Vocals

In the fall of 1969 the Rolling Stones were in a Los Ange­les record­ing stu­dio, putting the final touch­es on their album Let it Bleed. It was a tumul­tuous time for the Stones. They had been strug­gling with the album for the bet­ter part of a year as they dealt with the per­son­al dis­in­te­gra­tion of their founder and mul­ti-instru­men­tal­ist Bri­an Jones, whose drug addic­tion and per­son­al­i­ty prob­lems had reached a crit­i­cal stage. Jones was fired from the band in June of that year. He died less than a month lat­er. And although the Stones could­n’t have known it at the time, the year would end on anoth­er cat­a­stroph­ic note, as vio­lence broke out at the noto­ri­ous Alta­mont Free Con­cert just a day after Let it Bleed was released.

It was also a grim time around the world. The assas­si­na­tions of Mar­tin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the Tet Offen­sive, the bru­tal sup­pres­sion of the Prague Spring–all of these were recent mem­o­ries. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, Let it Bleed was not the most cheer­ful of albums. As Stephen Davis writes in his book Old Gods Almost Dead: The 40-Year Odyssey of the Rolling Stones, “No rock record, before or since, has ever so com­plete­ly cap­tured the sense of pal­pa­ble dread that hung over its era.”

And no song on Let it Bleed artic­u­lates this dread with greater force than the apoc­a­lyp­tic “Gimme Shel­ter,” in which Mick Jag­ger sings of a fire “sweepin’ our very street today,” like a “Mad bull lost his way.”

Rape, mur­der!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

In an inter­view last Novem­ber with Melis­sa Block for the NPR pro­gram All Things Con­sid­ered, Jag­ger talked about those lyrics, and the mak­ing of the song:

One of the most strik­ing moments in the inter­view is when Jag­ger describes the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing soul singer Mer­ry Clay­ton’s pow­er­ful back­ground vocals. “When we got to Los Ange­les and we were mix­ing it, we thought, ‘Well, it’d be great to have a woman come and do the rape/murder verse,’ or cho­rus or what­ev­er you want to call it,” said Jag­ger. “We ran­dom­ly phoned up this poor lady in the mid­dle of the night, and she arrived in her curlers and pro­ceed­ed to do that in one or two takes, which is pret­ty amaz­ing. She came in and knocked off this rather odd lyric. It’s not the sort of lyric you give anyone–‘Rape, murder/It’s just a shot away’–but she real­ly got into it, as you can hear on the record.”

The daugh­ter of a Bap­tist min­is­ter, Mer­ry Clay­ton grew up singing in her father’s church in New Orleans. She made her pro­fes­sion­al debut at age 14, record­ing a duet with Bob­by Darin. She went on to work with The Supremes, Elvis Pres­ley and many oth­ers, and was a mem­ber of Ray Charles’s group of back­ing singers, The Raelettes. She is one of the singers fea­tured in the new doc­u­men­tary film, 20 Feet From Star­dom. In an inter­view last week with Ter­ry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, Clay­ton talked about the night she was asked to sing on “Gimme Shel­ter”:

Well, I’m at home at about 12–I’d say about 11:30, almost 12 o’clock at night. And I’m hun­kered down in my bed with my hus­band, very preg­nant, and we got a call from a dear friend of mine and pro­duc­er named Jack Nitzsche. Jack Nitzsche called and said you know, Mer­ry, are you busy? I said No, I’m in bed. he says, well, you know, There are some guys in town from Eng­land. And they need some­one to come and sing a duet with them, but I can’t get any­body to do it. Could you come? He said I real­ly think this would be some­thing good for you.

At that point, Clay­ton recalled, her hus­band took the phone out of her hand and said, “Man, what is going on? This time of night you’re call­ing Mer­ry to do a ses­sion? You know she’s preg­nant.” Nitzsche explained the sit­u­a­tion, and just as Clay­ton was drift­ing back to sleep her hus­band nudged her and said, “Hon­ey, you know, you real­ly should go and do this date.” Clay­ton had no idea who the Rolling Stones were. When she arrived at the stu­dio, Kei­th Richards was there and explained what he want­ed her to do.

I said, Well, play the track. It’s late. I’d love to get back home. So they play the track and tell me that I’m going to sing–this is what you’re going to sing: Oh, chil­dren, it’s just a shot away. It had the lyrics for me. I said, Well, that’s cool. So  I did the first part, and we got down to the rape, mur­der part. And I said, Why am I singing rape, mur­der? …So they told me the gist of what the lyrics were, and I said Oh, okay, that’s cool. So then I had to sit on a stool because I was a lit­tle heavy in my bel­ly. I mean, it was a sight to behold. And we got through it. And then we went in the booth to lis­ten, and I saw them hoot­ing and hol­ler­ing while I was singing, but I did­n’t know what they were hoot­ing and hol­ler­ing about. And when I got back in the booth and lis­tened, I said, Ooh, that’s real­ly nice. They said, well, You want to do anoth­er?  I said, well, I’ll do one more, I said and then I’m going to have to say thank you and good night. I did one more, and then I did one more. So it was three times I did it, and then I was gone. The next thing I know, that’s his­to­ry.

Clay­ton sang with such emo­tion­al force that her voice cracked. (“I was just grate­ful that the crack was in tune,” she told Gross.) In the iso­lat­ed vocal track above, you can hear the oth­ers in the stu­dio shout­ing in amaze­ment. Despite giv­ing what would become the most famous per­for­mance of her career, it turned out to be a trag­ic night for Clay­ton. Short­ly after leav­ing the stu­dio, she lost her baby in a mis­car­riage. It has gen­er­al­ly been assumed that the stress from the emo­tion­al inten­si­ty of her per­for­mance and the late­ness of the hour caused the mis­car­riage. For many years Clay­ton found the song too painful to hear, let alone sing. “That was a dark, dark peri­od for me,” she told the Los Ange­les Times in 1986, “but God gave me the strength to over­come it. I turned it around. I took it as life, love and ener­gy and direct­ed it in anoth­er direc­tion, so it does­n’t real­ly both­er me to sing ‘Gimme Shel­ter’ now. Life is short as it is and I can’t live on yes­ter­day.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kurt Cobain’s Iso­lat­ed Vocal Track From ‘Smells Like Teen Spir­it,’ 1991

Lis­ten to Fred­die Mer­cury and David Bowie on the Iso­lat­ed Vocal Track for the Queen Hit ‘Under Pres­sure,’ 1981

The Rolling Stones Live in Hyde Park, 1969: The Com­plete Film

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Comments (93)
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  • Paul says:

    FWIW, I think Jack spells his name Nitzsche.

  • Mike Springer says:

    Thank you Paul. I got the spelling from the NPR tran­script, but I should have known bet­ter. I’ve made the cor­rec­tion.

  • Danny Noonan says:

    wow what an incred­i­ble sto­ry. so sor­ry about the sad end­ing. you either get on the Rolling Stones train or get run over by it. this time It was a com­bi­na­tion of both. I wish the best for ms Clay­ton.

  • Carol Wells-Jefferson says:

    Mer­ry Clay­ton and I were in Mr Cabellero’s Music Appre­ci­a­tion and Choir Class­es togeth­er at Jef­fer­son High School when they had the 9th grade includ­ed I sung 2nd Sopra­no she stood out then I believe you song Alto because Arthur Burgess (Quarterback)sat next to you or a cou­ple of seats away. I remem­ber you hav­ing a good and strong voice, my thought was she may real­ly make it as a singer. I am a cou­ple of years old­er than you if you were born in 1948, I have fol­lowed you career some­what and smile when I see you remem­ber­ing choir and how your appear­ances have not changed from the young teen til today in umteen years!! It would be great to com­mu­ni­cate or email you if pos­si­ble.

    Car­ol (Wells) in school

    Sin­cer­ly Yours,

  • John Hunter says:

    Mer­ry Clay­ton I have fol­lowed your career from time to time. Your voice is heav­en sent. It has been a long time. Remem­ber walk­ing to an from school, John Adams and to the show? If you remem­ber, please let me hear from you.

    Yours Tru­ly,

  • john raymond excelsior stevens berry says:

    worked with the great mer­ry clay­ton on the wood­stock 10th anniver­sary tour of europe. she was with cock­ers band, it was a fun night that end­ed the tour in mon­treaux switzer­land, ear­ly too. i was a back­stge mgr, her work with bob dylan, is hope­ful­ly released some day.
    hur­ray for mary clay­ton! great sto­ry and vibe here, thank you.

  • Elaine says:

    Mrs. Clay­ton’s voice is so pow­er­ful, the Stones could not have cho­sen any­one bet­ter to do the cho­rus on this song.
    So trag­ic about her sweet baby leav­ing. What hap­pened must have been a still­birth, not a mis­car­riage, if she was “very” preg­nant.

  • Kate says:

    This sto­ry, espe­cial­ly with her chill­ing vocals behind it, gives me goose­bumps, lit­er­al­ly. It’s an incred­i­ble sto­ry, and it has me lis­ten­ing to this song on repeat all over again!

  • Joel Karp says:

    After lis­ten­ing to music for over fifty years I can say mer­ry Clay­ton’s voice on this song is absolutey perfect,bar none. It was her voice that made this song what it is. Time­less

  • nowa paz says:

    Where is the iso­lat­ed vocal men­tioned in the arti­cle?

  • Jaycer17 says:

    I can now safe­ly say this is my favorite Rolling Stonees song. I heard Mer­ry’s inter­view on FResh Air, and I can’t wait to see the doc. Her voice is flaw­less.

  • Mark Haaseth says:

    Sis­ters of Mer­cy, bet­ter then the stones ver­sion.

    • Ollie Juskas says:

      Many cov­er ver­sions have been made of Gimme Shel­ter. Some are bril­liant. But Sis­ters of Mer­cy prob­a­bly record­ed the worst ever cov­er ver­sion of any song in rock his­to­ry. They butchered a clas­sic.

  • Chaz Turner says:

    Great­est Rock ‘n Roll song ever record­ed — and when you real­ize that Mer­ry Clay­ton lost her child due to the incred­i­ble per­for­mance she deliv­ers (she actu­al­ly steals the song out from under Mick) it is the clas­sic song for our gen­er­a­tion.

  • E says:

    please post the iso­lat­ed vocal track!!

  • Justin says:

    20 Feet From Star­dom has an excel­lent seg­ment on Clay­ton, and this track

  • Mr Jimmy says:

    I acute­ly remem­ber the sense of fore­bod­ing this song emot­ed at the time. It was the end of the six­ties and the par­ty was end­ing in a drug soaked self indul­gent bon­fire. It is real­ly the most icon­ic record of that peri­od and still gives me the chills when lis­ten­ing.

  • Josh Cuz says:

    You will pay for the hun­dreds of mil­lions you have influ­enced into sub­con­scious and con­scious Satanism. Nice to know you’ll be get­ting what’s com­ing to you, there is no escape.

  • MrWhamBam says:

    My God, man.…i had no idea she mis­car­ried right after the ses­sion. As a mat­ter of fact, she all but avoids men­tion­ing that, when she talks about that par­tic­u­lar ses­sion. Ive nev­er heard her speak of it..nnone thing I do know is, that take she did on it, above, where its just her voice..made the hair on my arms stand up. INCREDIBLE…

  • Chicago Strike Team South says:

    Right before we would do drug or war­rant raids in the projects in chicago,6 of us armed to the teeth(including AR-15’s) would blast this in the van before we jumped out and locked up the bad guys. Rolling Stones ALWAYS good for the head and THIS tune along with Mer­ry’s solo would put us in the right frame of mind for the task at hand.….

  • RP says:

    The soar­ing notes through­out most of the solo track are hair-rais­ing enough, but the low wind-down at the end is the best 5‑second tuto­r­i­al of soul singing ever.

  • fiZ says:

    great interview…but you should know bet­ter then to ask Mick his age…he nev­er liked that question..lol

  • Charlie Dominici says:

    I remem­ber that time very vivid­ly. It was an amaz­ing thing that we even got through it. Mick was a god to me and I’m not a reli­gious per­son but if I was, I might think he was that “oth­er” pow­er­ful god. It seemed like noth­ing but evil and dark things sur­round­ed the Stones for years and I’m so glad they pulled through it. I’m known for prog met­al but my roots and my heart will always be “Rolling”. Now every time I see the Stones live and I’ve seen almost every show when they are in town,the minute they start play­ing “Sym­pa­thy for the Dev­il” it all plays again in my head like a hor­ror film..Altamont,VietNam,M.L.King,John and Robert Kennedy, and my own demons,and I know what Mick is think­ing. Talk about “being in char­ac­ter” for a song. Mick nails it every time.

  • tiaragardens says:

    Serif this posts

  • tiaragardens says:

    @john hunter
    @ car­ol wells..wow u both knew her at dif­fer­ent schools . Feel bad u both try­ing to con­tact her.what if she does­n’t see this site or does not read com­ments ?
    I tried to find her con­tact info for u..one is crack­pot site. Think your best bet for now is I Reed Man .com ..he has con­tact sec­tion ..u give your email. Or try his face­book : I Reed­man and Mer­ry Clay­ton . He is sax­o­phon­ist Joel C Peskin who did her re-newed ver­sion of Gimme Shlter.not too long ago.
    Maybe just say u went to school n want to re con­nect . Or could say u want to book and could­n’t find her agent ( I found 3 rd par­ty bookers..not her real agent.) Maybe she’s on facebook..but it might not real­ly be her …some sites in celebri­ties’ names of course r by fans . Good luck..hope u do get to chat w her .

  • tiaragardens says:

    I can remem­ber first time I heard Gimme Shelter..like most of us ‚it was the haunt­ing open­ing and then her voice that made the song so awe­some in the true sense of the word..(look it up ..does not mean won­der­ful) .
    She com­ments on how she hat­ed singing on Sweet Home Alaba­ma because she knew it was any­thing but. She says she could bare­ly hide her con­tempt. This how tru­ly pow­er­ful and EXPRESSIVE her voice : I always thought there was a crazy ‚fren­zied qual­i­ty to how one of the female singers screamed ” Alaba­ma ‚aaa ‚Alabama,AAA,AAA.” Lis­ten to it ..u will hear what she’s try­ing to con­vey ..the ” Alaba­ma Hell No ! ” and its past hor­rors against blacks comes through..u will feel it in your guts..the fren­zy of one being beat­en or lynched . U will feel their ter­ror ..which she has embod­ied vocal­ly . Play it. She is a genius w her voice .

  • Tom nerison says:

    Her voice cracks on the third “mur­der” of her solo after the instru­men­tal bridge. Easy enough to hear if you pay atten­tion. Makes the solo EVEN MORE POWERFUL! You can hear it on the record­ing on this site.

  • Mandy Martin says:

    Mer­ry Clay­ton, you have been a ghost in my life until now. What incred­i­ble tal­ent .… but so much more. Rip­ping your guts out! Just rip­ping your guts out on the very first takes, with strangers, your own fragili­ty waived. Haunt­ed me for 50 years or more. Let the cry go on!

  • jack dully says:

    I would great­ly appre­ci­ate any info of whether the Mer­ry Clay­ton version,with Mick , gimme shel­ter is on any dvd, out there and can be bought,covering that concert,if not is there a cd with that song on it

  • tailypo says:

    I love Mer­ry Clay­ton and I’m so glad to read her receiv­ing recog­ni­tion but hon­est­ly, singing with inten­si­ty at a very late hour does not cause mis­car­riage or still­birth. Come On now. If that were the case, we would­n’t need abor­tion clin­ics would we? She expe­ri­enced a tragedy, it’s true, but don’t blame her or the Rolling Stones for the loss of that baby. She sim­ply mis­car­ried.

  • Ovid Goode says:

    It’s amaz­ing to me as an African-Amer­i­can how many African-Amer­i­can singers are so total­ly clue­less when it comes to major artists in oth­er musi­cal gen­res.

    How could Mer­ry Clay­ton not know who the Rolling Stones were in 1969, 4 years after “Sat­is­fac­tion” was the biggest song in the coun­try, and had even become an R&B hit by Wil­son Pick­ett.

    Plus they had been on “The Ed Sul­li­van Show” sev­er­al times and had and oth­er big hits like “Last Time,” “Under My Thumb,” etc.

    You don’t have to like their music, but it’s pret­ty igno­rant for an African Amer­i­can pro­fes­sion­al musi­cian to not know who Tay­lor Swift or Paul McCart­ney is.

    • YourWifeIsMyLife says:

      I’m sure she’s embell­ish­ing the sto­ry when she claims not to have known who the Stones were. It just makes the back­sto­ry bet­ter.

    • Elizabeth Claiborne says:

      She must have known, she’s a New Orleans girl singing for Ray Charles while the Brit were cut­ting clas­sic blues songs. But that preg­nant? Might have been the hor­mones and mem­o­ry. It hap­pens.

  • Will says:

    So much death swirling around the Stones that year. Bri­an Jones drowns after being kicked out of the band, Mer­ry Clay­ton mis­car­ries hours after record­ing her amaz­ing por­tion of “Gimme Shel­ter,” then Alta­mont. Let It Bleed, indeed.…

  • Mike M says:

    Oh, man.… Her name is Mer­ry and she was born on Christ­mas day 1948. That is so cool, I love it!

  • CathyO says:

    You should catch 20 Feet From Star­dom. The film fol­lows the behind-the-scenes of back­up singers and stars Dar­lene Love, Judith Hill, Mer­ry Clay­ton, Lisa Fis­ch­er, Táta Vega, and Jo Lawry, Mer­ry Clay­ton, among many oth­ers. It cov­ers Mer­ry’s mid­dle of the night call — great sto­ry.

  • spiderbucket says:

    Look at the music made dur­ing that time, and in most tur­bu­lent times since then. Now ? Noth­ing. Not in the main­stream any­way.

  • Jean says:

    Tur­bu­lent peo­ple in tur­bu­lent time made won­der­full music.
    Go Mary Go.

  • Jim says:

    Great inter­view and great song, I’m hap­py I have the time to lis­ten to such things now . J

  • Irwin Mainway says:

    Kudos to Mick for not being threat­ened at shar­ing the vocals.
    Owned the record. Heard it 100 times, 200 times? I nev­er knew they were singing “Mur­der, rape”.
    Kudos to Keith/Mick for let­ting her upstage the lyrics.

    I bet she had seen plen­ty on those tours with Ray Charles etc, some­thing was in that per­for­mance besides the words scrib­bled down.

  • Nerp says:

    If those iso­lat­ed vocals don’t chill you to the bone, noth­ing will.

  • Greg says:

    At about 3.02 her voice breaks on the word ‘mur­der’, and about a sec­ond lat­er you can some­one (pre­sum­ably one of the Stones) shout ‘woo!’

  • FrankSinatra says:

    I hope the irony of this isn’t lost of you, although I’m more than sure that it is.

  • Velaphi Mamba says:

    “…we ran­dom­ly phoned up this poor lady in the mid­dle of the night.”

    Seri­ous­ly, you f*cking nar­cis­stic ingrate? Her name is Mer­ry Clay­ton, and you ough­ta pay some respect, because if it weren’t for her, this song would just be anoth­er entry in your uneven cat­a­logue.

    How pre­dictable and how dis­gust­ing is it that you
    can’t even give her cred­it? Prob­a­bly because deep down, you know the same thing that we all do: It’s your best song only because she’s the one who brings it home. Not you.

    My con­do­lences, Ms. Clay­ton, for the sor­row that fol­lowed. I know it’s cold com­fort, but in this song, you achieved what very few artists have been able to do: You chilled us to the bone with the stark truth of who we are and what we face.

    Shake­speare comes to mind. Beck­ett comes to mind. And so does your singing on this song.

    Jag­ger? He gives a good show, does­n’t he? But, so what?

  • IYAOYAS says:

    Doing gun runs sit­ting in the door of a UH-1B in RVN in 1970 with this song on the IC mad the whole expe­ri­ence indeli­ble.

  • Michael says:

    So WELL SAID, Velaphi!

  • Bubbalu says:

    @Mark Haaseth:/ I’m so sor­ry to have to tell your so very off base with your com­ment. Tere’s NOBODY…up to this day, (4/23/2015), that’s ever done this song bet­ter then the STONES.Sorry guy!

  • Jane says:

    As has been com­ment­ed, the mis­car­riage fol­low­ing the gig is news. I’d already been amazed at the strength of the ladies depict­ed in ‘Twen­ty Feet from Star­dom’ — how do you all get through.

  • Luis Hernandez says:

    What an amaz­ing sto­ry indeed. And the music of the Stones will nev­er fade away! Cheers!

  • wolf says:

    I remem­ber the very first time I heard this song, I said to myself “who the heck is THAT !?!?!?!” Yes Mer­ry Clay­ton SERIOUSLY impressed me with her singing, emo­tions, enthu­si­asm and tal­ent!! I think it is safe to say that (fig­u­ra­tive­ly speak­ing) her per­for­mance put this song on the MAP!!! I see that some­one com­pared her per­for­mance to Shake­speare and that is not an over­state­ment. If I might make my own com­par­i­son, if this were art, Mer­ry Clay­ton’s per­for­mance would be the Mona Lisa. Great work Mer­ry!!

  • Doug says:

    too fun­ny .… I always thought and heard the lyrics as … oh chill­in’ he took the shine away, he took the shine away .… lol

    that’s the thing about rock lyrics … they are rarely clear and often mis­heard.

  • Steve says:

    i’ve heard “Gimme Shel­ter” hun­dreds of times. I’m less than a year younger than Ms. Clay­ton. Today, I heard it on the radio and was struck that I did­n’t know who that incred­i­ble voice belonged to, so I researched it. Wow, what a sto­ry, what a lady!

  • Joe says:

    I am awe-inspired by a woman who shows up in a stu­dio to find out the gig is THE ROLLING STONES, per­forms some­thing epic and defines to them that she real­ly needs to get home and sleep. 68, 69, 70, in addi­tion to assas­si­na­tions and Prague were Mi Lai, Kent State and the rip­ping sound of the fab­ric of social cohe­sion. That era is mis­re­mem­bered now as some­thing like “dis­re­spect­ing the troops”. It was SDS, Weath­er Under­ground, Black Pan­ther Par­ty, Chica­go 7 and Catonsville 9. I entered col­lege the year Gimme Shel­ter was released. We all felt the storm ris­ing and the moral con­flicts and the dis­il­lu­sion­ments. For giv­ing voice to all this Mer­ry Clay­ton deserves our homage.

  • Tony says:

    Great sto­ry! Mer­ry Clay­ton is/was amaz­ing. As oth­ers have not­ed, the movie “20 Feet from Star­dom” is phe­nom­e­nal. And the sto­ry about “Gim­mee Shel­ter” is there.

    Anoth­er great Stones tale is the one about “Torn ‘n’ Frayed.” The gen­e­sis of the line “Joe’s got a cough” is in the book “Walk, Don’t Run” by Steven Jae John­son (link: http://amzn.to/1W5fxOr). Check it out. The short of it is that Mick wrote the lines on the spot about the record­ing engi­neer Joey Zagari­no.

  • Sandra Lagerstrom says:

    My sin­cer­est con­do­lences to Mer­ry, I just read that she lost her baby after that ses­sion. I per­formed her solo many times in a Stones cov­er band, when I watched the videos I could see the major arter­ies in my neck swelling from the sheer force that’s need­ed to hit those notes like she did. I thought I might give myself an aneurysm, I don’t think most non singers real­ize how much of a phys­i­cal toll some songs can take. Mer­ry’s per­for­mance is one of the most pow­er­ful vocal pieces ever record­ed.

  • Debbie says:

    Well, the sto­ry gets sad­der. I just read Mer­ry had both legs ampu­tat­ed last year after a car acci­dent. How sad…

  • Linda says:

    I was always so jeal­ous of Mer­ry’s voice. I still get chills lis­ten­ing to her, more than 40 years lat­er. Incred­i­ble, and so sad that such an icon­ic piece of music is attached to such a tragedy.

  • markb says:

    i’d just like to know if the stones ever even paid her for her work for them.

  • Rob says:


  • Rob says:

    What the hell are you talk­ing about? Rip­ping her guts out on the first take? Like its some­how a bet­ter track bc she lost the baby? Let the cry go on???? What are you bab­bling about?

  • martin says:

    Are we real­ly to believe that in the fall of 1969, Mer­ry Clay­ton “had no idea who the Rolling Stones were…”? I mean, real­ly? She was in the busi­ness but had no idea who the Stones were? Doh!

  • Judy Grau says:

    Just read in Decem­ber Jazz Times that fan­tas­tic vocal­ist Mer­ry Clay­ton lost both legs in a car acci­dent .How trag­ic .She had just received an award for her part in the out­stand­ing Doco 20 Feet From Star­dom. Con­grat­u­la­tions and

  • Heather says:

    How do I sub­scribe 2 ‘open cul­ture’???

  • Jenny Fletcher says:

    You have to BELIEVE in ‘Satan’ or some such imag­i­nary being before you can start influ­enc­ing any­one and I have nev­er seen any evi­dence that any of the Stones past or present ever seri­ous­ly believed in ‘Satan’, satan­ic wor­ship or any such thing despite pass­ing ref­er­ences in their music.

    Go get a real life. No-one is wor­ried about their eter­nal future as a result of lis­ten­ing to the Stones except you and your sad and pathet­ic god both­er­ers

  • Hey velaphi says:

    Hey velaphi mam­ba you igno­ra­mus, mick’ s sup­posed to know who Mer­ry Clay­ton is? In 1969 Mick and Kei­th were approach­ing the crest of the great­est 10 year run if song­writ­ing in the 20th cen­tu­ry. Yet, you take umbrage with Jag­ger not know­ing who she was? Do you find it curi­ous she does­n’t know who the Stones were. Stop being a dum­my.… She was a preg­nant back­ground singer.… They were the
    World’s great­est rock and roll band. She did a great job but with­out mick and Kei­th’s genius you nev­er heard of mer­ry Clay­ton. Now apol­o­gize to to mick and Kei­th, douchebag.

  • Hey velaphi says:


  • Hey velaphi says:

    Hur­ry dum­my

  • J.L. Seagal says:

    I heard “Gimme Shel­ter” for the first time while wait­ing for my baby out­side her house. I had the radio on (of course) in my mom’s ’64 Bon­neville rag­top. The intro alone froze me. Then, Mer­ry’s vocals on the cho­rus blew me away. I was­n’t even 16 yet, but that moment in time will live until I die.

  • cm says:

    It’s the very top video.

  • TJ Colatrella says:

    It was Emmaret­ta Marks who Cre­at­ed the Icon­ic Intro of Gim­mie Shel­ter and Sang it, it is also Emmaret­ta Marks who screams those famous “Rape Mur­der” Lines and she knew of what she was singing..

    Lat­er Lon­don Records had Mer­ry Clay­ton sing over Emmaret­ta’s Tracks, but even live if you look for videos Mer­ry avoids attempt­ing Emmaret­ta’s vocal intro..

    When CD’s came out as Emmaret­ta sang 5 Tracks on Gim­mie Shel­ter, the engi­neers not know­ing turned up Emmaret­ta’s tracks as they are the best female vocal tracks..

    Emmaret­ta had been dat­ing Kei­th when they brought her into the stu­dio after they had all been crash­ing and par­ty­ing at Stephen Stills house in the L.A. area..

    It’s Emmaret­ta you hear singing Gim­mie Shel­ter there are some sec­tions of Mer­ry Clay­ton’s vocals in there too but the famous Vocal Vir­tu­os­i­ty you are hear­ing is Emmaret­ta Marks who sang back up with many oth­ers includ­ing Jimi Hen­drix..

    It’s Emmaret­ta Marks, Not Mer­ry Clay­ton, you’ve been hear­ing all these years, and she nev­er got cred­it or paid any­thing for this famous con­tri­bu­tion to Rock n Roll His­to­ry.!

  • dahszil says:

    like they could­n’t wait till next day. she had a mis­car­riage of her baby because of that mid­dle of the night get­ting up and going down to record­ing stu­dio. i like the stones but i hate jag­ger. jag­ger nev­er talks about her. i bet she sued them as she should, and got a lit­tle mon­ey. i bet she hard­ly got much mon­ey for the singing ses­sion. she is one of the greates.

    Oh yeah, you know why Mick Tay­lor has played as a guest from 2012 to about 2014? it was part of set­tle­ment for the mil­lion dol­lars jag­ger owed him. jag­ger also ripped off the stones logo(mouth and tongue hang­ing out) for peanuts from an artist. artist nev­er got any roy­al­ties. if you are any kind of artist, writer, have an idea for a movie, etc get it copy­wr­it­ed before you sell it or send it off for perusal . and with the copy­right spec­i­fy that fur­ther than one time use, the artist must get a per­cent­age or roy­al­ty for any fur­ther use­age.

  • Stevie says:

    Poor Mer­ry Clay­ton has had a tough life. It has­n’t just been a mis­car­riage but a life of raw deals.

    I just hope she feels loved. Gimme Shel­ter was a mag­ic track because of her. Her voice helps make it what it is. I just hope life cuts her a few good deals before the end, she’s had it too tough but then so do lots of oth­ers. Wish­ing every­one bet­ter days.

  • Filene says:

    I don’t know if Mer­ry Clay­ton vis­its pages like this on the inter­net. But I hope my words join the cho­rus of hearts and souls found on pages like this site:

    The whole rea­son I care about this song is sim­ply because I heard Mer­ry’s deliv­ery of these vocals. This song of great mean­ing was thrust into background/setting music typ­i­cal of mod­ern tele­vi­sion… Because some peo­ple can cal­lous­ly call such a work of art a good prop for their dra­ma.

    Mer­ry, I don’t think we will ever meet.
    Mer­ry, I fear you’ll nev­er see these words.
    Mer­ry, I fear the time for too many great folk comes after their pass­ing.

    And that’s why, so long after you sang these vocals, I heard about you and your child. I pray this sto­ry lives on in the gift you and your fam­i­ly gave the world through The Rolling Stones. I pray it con­tin­ues to change the world like it did for me today.

  • Loren Halloran says:

    I was about 16 when I first heard Mer­ry sing on Gimme Shel­ter, I won­dered all my life who she was. I am now 61 and have just found out that she sang those famous lyrics. I cant stop lis­ten­ing to the iso­lat­ed track. It is out of this frickin world and gives me joy each time I hear it. I have shared it a hun­dred times to friends.

    What a sto­ry! Thank God for you and your many sac­ri­fices over the years. You are loved.

    Be blessed.…..

  • Sikki nixxx says:

    Per­fect example,pain becom­ing art…recycled

  • Noreen Lee says:

    If the group knew of her loss, they should have wait­ed a cou­ple of years. It’s nor­mal to grieve a year. Her womb was the baby’s shel­ter. After a year or two, they should have re-approached her to re-record, and then mass dis­trib­uted the art. They should have respect­ed her grief, espe­cial­ly since the song was sup­pos­ed­ly sen­si­tive to human needs in time of cri­sis. They put a price on her dig­ni­ty and sold it. They negat­ed the song’s mes­sage.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow. What a sto­ry! For what it’s worth, it’s unlike­ly the per­for­mance caused the mis­car­riage. It would’ve hap­pened either way. I say that after ask­ing a doc­tor too. It’s real­ly real­ly sad… but I hope we don’t add that bit for the­atre here to the sto­ry. It’s just coin­ci­dence and I’m sure a reminder to her giv­en the tim­ing. The sto­ry is amaz­ing enough with­out that bit.

  • Ava Basalyga says:

    Sad to have the loss of a child. I’ve worked dur­ing preg­nan­cy as most women today. Hard to blame the loss on work­ing that his­toric record­ing. Some­thing’s just hap­pen. Sad.

  • butchernicholas says:

    Is it not extra­or­di­nary that Ani­ta Pal­len­berg (whom appar­ent­ly helped to write ‘Gimme Shel­ter’) died on the same day as the fire at Gren­fell Tow­ers? Does part of the lyric describe a fire sweep­ing through to peo­ple’s homes?

  • Philip Matsikoudis says:

    Are you seri­ous? This song is his­toric & vir­tu­ous. You are blind­ed by your hate­ful ‘Fire & Brim­stone’ self-indul­gent judg­ment of oth­ers with­out wont or need. Instead of alarm­ing any­one you come off like a blither­ing idiot.. .

  • Philip Matsikoudis says:

    I’ve heard so many peo­ple say the same thing. The truth is many peo­ple do not know these cut­ting won­der­ful lyrics. When peo­ple think of Mick Jag­ger they usu­al­ly think of his cap­ti­vat­ing stage per­for­mance rife with infi­nite sta­mi­na, how­ev­er, Jag­ger & Kei­th Richards were great song writ­ers as well as per­form­ers.

  • Nicholas W says:

    I so agree with this pow­er­ful state­ment. This song has tak­en on new life for me after read­ing this sto­ry. God bless you Mer­ry!!

  • johannes bols says:

    You mean Mick and Kei­th influ­enc­ing kids into Satanism? I think any nor­mal per­son would sluff it off as just anoth­er reli­gion.

  • John Vetter says:

    Keep Mer­ry in your thoughts ‚prayers ‚good juju …that acci­dent in 2014 cost her the ampu­ta­tion of both legs at the knees. She is now 69.and accord­ing to Wiki still active as a vocal­ist.

    20 feet ahead of the Stars. Our favorite songs might be b‑sides with­out back­ground vocals.

    Give Thanks.

  • MDavey says:

    A pro­fes­sion­al musi­cian not know­ing exact­ly who the Rolling Stones were dur­ing this peri­od in time, would not have been unusu­al. Pop artists were far greater in both num­ber and diver­si­ty back then, plus, Ms. Clay­ton spe­cial­ized in gospel-style singing, not pop/rock, or “rhythm and blues” as it was still called back then
    . The Rolling Stones were pop­u­lar among teens and some young twen­ty-some­things, but nowhere near as wide­ly pop­u­lar across many demo­graph­ics as they became, just a few years lat­er. At that point, they were viewed as cheeky and rough young upstarts from across the pond, upset­ting the Amer­i­can pop musi­cal apple cart. Plus, it was a dif­fer­ent era for pop music and all music. Can’t mea­sure it by cur­rent stan­dards. I miss being able to turn on the radio, and with a few clicks of the dial, hear a huge vari­ety of musi­cal gen­res and many diverse sound­ing artists, played one right behind the oth­er. One could hear James Brown, fol­lowed by Frank Sina­tra, fol­lowed by the Doors, fol­lowed by the Rolling Stones, fol­lowed by Ste­vie Won­der, fol­lowed by James Tay­lor, Ray Charles.…and in between, a whole bunch of for­get­table and mediocre crap. Sad­ly, a group like the Rolling Stones, if emerg­ing today, would not gar­ner much air­play and would have a tough time catch­ing on.

  • Herb Blake says:

    Eas­i­ly my favorite female vocal per­for­mance of all time, you can tell she held absolute­ly noth­ing back, I get emo­tion­al every time I hear it.

  • Paul S says:

    I strong­ly doubt that the mis­car­riage had any­thing to do with her singing on this song. Preg­nan­cies are not that frag­ile and women don’t lose babies from one episode of strong emo­tion or because they stay up too late one night. If this real­ly hap­pened, there would be very few babies born.

  • MERRY STRONG says:

    Wow, two days before my 11th birth­day, that song hit me and I thought lyrics were , IT’S JUST A SHADOW WAVE, They say you lean some­thing every­day, and I learned more today. Just was so hap­py that I got to yell Kei­th at SBC in SF the con­cert was great!God Bless Mary ‚God has blessed the Stones may he keep bless­ing them.

  • Bettyhalcomb12@gmail.com says:

    I am now 71 and Mer­ry’s voice still gives me chills when I hear Gimme Shel­ter. This song wold be noth­ing with­out your pow­er­ful voice and the feel­ings you trans­mit. God bless you. I am so sor­ry about your mis­car­riage. You have a voice meant to com­pel the true feel­ings of the song.

  • Whowouldaknown says:

    Thank you for the great back­sto­ry on the orig­i­nal track. Amaz­ing, how some things that are so unas­sum­ing, end up hap­pen­ing at just the right time, to the right peo­ple (Mer­ry), just because they want to help.

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