Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gimme Shelter Some Random History

San Rafael, CA

I would not characterize myself as a huge Rolling Stones fan, not in the vein of my good friend the former Kathleen Walsh, but I diggem. Even if one is not a Stones fan, anyone who enjoys history would enjoy a peruse of the Stones and their effect on American and British culture.  Someday soon I'll carve out the time to read Keith Richards Book 'Life'. The below picture is from the infamous concert, dubbed the 'Woodstock of the West' that went totally awry with the Hells Angels providing security. You can read about this event and its aftermath by clicking here.

Altamont Speedway near Livermore CA, December 1969
 Maybe my favorite Stones tune of all time is Gimme Shelter. The song was written mostly by Richards while he was sitting by the river Thames. For me the strum pattern and the female singer is what is so appealing. The other day the song came on and I decided to do a bit of research to find out the who's and the what's. Enter Merry Clayton.

She was born in New Orleans and the daughter of a Preacher and a renown Gospel singer in her own right. She has sang background vocals on numerous songs Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" and Tori Amos "Cornflake Girl." This song reminds of my good friend Tara McDaid. 

What a set of pipes on this lady. So below is a quote about the song from Mick Jagger.

   "That song was written during the Vietnam War and so it's very much about the awareness that war is always present; it was very present in life at that point. Mary Clayton who did the backing vocals, was a background singer who was known to one of the producers. Suddenly, we wanted someone to sing in the middle of the night. And she was around. She came with her curlers in, straight from bed, and had to sing this really odd lyric. For her it was a little odd - for anyone, in the middle of the night, to sing this one verse I would have been odd. She was great."

What a crack that she showed up with curlers in her hair. That is old school! She sang so hard that night that she had a miscarriage. What a story.

History is chock full of these kinds of stories, and I just love them.