Archive for December 8th, 2019

I am running late again so I am going to keep this intro to this week’s Sunday morning music selection short. It’s a great version of the Rolling Stones’ classic Gimme Shelter from 1970 by Merry Clayton.

While most of us have no idea who Merry Clayton is, she is a legendary back up singer, giving strong vocal backing to a host of artists through the decades. She was a Raelette behind Ray Charles and also backed up  such a diverse group of artists such as Pearl Bailey, Burt Bacharach, Tom Jones, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, Elvis, Carole King, Tori Amos, Neil Young and even Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The most famous story about Merry Clayton revolves around this song, Gimme Shelter. It seems when the Stones were recording it, Mick Jagger thought it would be great to have a strong female voice in its chorus. They called Clayton in the middle of the night and she showed up shortly after, pregnant and in curlers, and knocked out her part in a couple of takes. The ultimate trooper, her chorus became a defining element of the rock classic.

There’s a lot more to read about here incredible, and largely unsung, career, some of it told in 2013 Oscar winning documentary about back up singers, 20 Feet From Stardom. In 2014, Merry Clayton was in a serious car crash and, as a result, had both legs amputated.

The ups and downs of a life.

Here’s her Gimme Shelter. Have a great Sunday.

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