The Best Vocal On This Rolling Stones Song Is Not From Mick Jagger

"Gimme Shelter" is one of those tracks that just makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The whole mood of the piece is haunting, from the syncopated guitar and percussion to the disturbing lyrics and blazing vocals. 

Mick Jagger delivers an incredible performance, but it's not our favorite vocal on the song. That honor goes to Merry Clayton, the premier background vocalist of that era in the '70s. 


In 1969, the Stones were in Los Angeles putting the finishing touches on the album Let It Bleed. They wanted to add female background vocals to "Gimme Shelter" so producer Jack Nitzsche called the New-Orleans-born singer Merry Clayton.

Merry tells the story this way: She said she got a call in the middle of the night to come sing with these British guys called the Rolling Stones. She showed up at the studio still in her curlers and decided to show these Englishmen everything she was capable of. Then she proceeded to let it rip.


To zoom in on Merry's amazing solo in the track, click on this video. What's great is Mick's reaction when he shouts a couple of times during her intense performance:



If you haven't seen "20 Feet From Stardom" -- the 2013 Academy-Award-winning documentary about background singers -- go find a copy and watch it tonight! It's an amazing view into what it was like for these African-American women lending their talents -- and in many cases making the songs hits -- for white artists from the Stones to Joe Cocker to Elton John, Springsteen and Sting.

No matter how many times we hear it, Merry's vocals on "Gimme Shelter" give us goosebumps. Watch Merry tell her story about that night in 1969:



Leave A Comment

Now it's your turn. What's your favorite Stones track? What's your favorite Stones album? Leave us a comment and let us know!

And if you like this post, you might also like:
Was Michael Jackson At Age 11 The Greatest Singer Ever?
Hear David Bowie's Isolated Vocals On "Under Pressure"

3 comments

  • elizabeth rowlands
    elizabeth rowlands Jim Thorpe PA
    Goosebumps....

    Goosebumps....

  • Nancy Parry
    Nancy Parry North Port, Florida
    Gives me GOOSEBUMPS ??

    Gives me GOOSEBUMPS ??

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