"Gimme Shelter" is a song by The Rolling Stones. It first appeared as the opening track on the band's 1969 album Let It Bleed. Although the first word was spelled "Gimmie" on that album, subsequent recordings by the band and other musicians have made "Gimme" the customary spelling. Greil Marcus, writing in Rolling Stone magazine at the time of its release, said of it, "The Stones have never done anything better."
The song features female vocals by Merry Clayton.
Inspiration and recording
"Gimme Shelter" was written by the Rolling Stones' lead vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, the band's primary songwriting team. Richards began working on the song's signature opening riff in London whilst Jagger was away filming Performance. As released, the song begins with Richards performing a guitar intro, soon joined by Jagger's harmonica and subsequent lead vocal. Of <i>Let It Bleed's bleak world view, Jagger said in a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone:
"Well, it's a very rough, very violent era. The Vietnam War. Violence on the screens, pillage and burning. And Vietnam was not war as we knew it in the conventional sense. The thing about Vietnam was that it wasn't like World War II, and it wasn't like Korea, and it wasn't like the Gulf War. It was a real nasty war, and people didn't like it. People objected, and people didn't want to fight it..." As for the song itself, he concluded, "That's a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It's apocalypse; the whole record's like that."
Similarly, on NPR in 2012:
"It was a very moody piece about the world closing in on you a bit...When it was recorded, early '69 or something, it was a time of war and tension, so that's reflected in this tune. It's still wheeled out when big storms happen, as they did the other week [during Hurricane Sandy]. It's been used a lot to evoke natural disaster."
After the first verse, guest vocalist Merry Clayton enters and shares the next three verses. A guitar solo by Richards follows then, with great energy Clayton repeatedly sings "Rape, murder. It's just a shot away. It's just a shot away," almost screaming the final stanza. She and Jagger then repeat the line "It's just a shot away" and finish with repeats of "It's just a kiss away." (Of her inclusion, Jagger said in the 2003 book According to the Rolling Stones: "The use of the female voice was the producer's idea. It would be one of those moments along the lines of 'I hear a girl on this track â" get one on the phone.'" ) Summoned from bed around midnight by the producer, Clayton made her recording with just a few takes then returned home to bed. It remains the most prominent contribution to a Rolling Stones track by a female vocalist.
At about 2:59 into the song, Clayton's voice cracks under the strain; once during the second refrain on the word "shot", then on the word "murder" during the third refrain, after which Jagger is faintly heard exclaiming "Woo!" in response to Clayton's powerful delivery. Upon returning home she suffered a miscarriage, attributed by some sources to her exertions during the recording. Merry Clayton's name was erroneously written on the original release, appearing as 'Mary'. Her name is also listed as 'Mary' on the 2002 Let It Bleed remastered CD.
The song was first recorded in London at Olympic Studios in February and March 1969; the version with Clayton was recorded in Los Angeles at Sunset Sound & Elektra Studios in October and November of that same year. Nicky Hopkins played piano, the Rolling Stones' producer Jimmy Miller played percussion, Charlie Watts played drums, Bill Wyman played bass, Jagger played harmonica and sang backup vocals with Richards and Clayton. Guitarist Brian Jones was present during the sessions but did not contribute, Richards being credited with both rhythm and lead guitars on the album sleeve. An unreleased version features only Richards providing vocals, while an extended remix version has also been created by British DJ Danny Howells using isolated tracks ripped from the Rock Band video game, it features the bass much more in the forefront of the mix and the original unfaded outro.
Releases on compilation albums and live recordings
"Gimme Shelter" quickly became a staple of the Rolling Stones' live show. It was first performed sporadically during their 1969 American Tour and became a regular addition to their setlist during the 1972 American Tour. Concert versions appear on the Stones' albums No Security (1998), Live Licks (2004), Brussels Affair (2011), and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live (2013), as well as on the 1996 "Wild Horses" (live) single.
The song appears in the 2010 official DVD release of the 1972 Rolling Stones tour film, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones. It is also featured on Bridges to Babylon Tour '97â"98 (1998), Rolling Stones â" Four Flicks (2004), The Biggest Bang (2007), and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live (2013).
The female contributor to the song live is Lisa Fischer, the only woman to appear in all their tours since 1989.
In their 2012 50th anniversary tour, the Rolling Stones sang this song with Mary J. Blige, Florence Welch and Lady Gaga.
"Gimme Shelter" was never released as a single. Nevertheless, it has been included on many compilation releases, including Hot Rocks 1964â"1971, Forty Licks and GRRR!.
Michel Gondry, an Academy Award-winning French filmmaker, directed a music video for the song, which was released in 1998. The video features Brad Renfro, who plays a young man escaping with his brother first from a dysfunctional home and the abuse they suffered at the hands of their abusive alcoholic father, and then from society as a whole.
- Mick Jagger â" vocals, harmonica
- Keith Richards â" guitars, backing vocals
- Bill Wyman â" bass
- Charlie Watts â" drums
- Nicky Hopkins â" piano
- Jimmy Miller â" percussion
- Merry Clayton â" vocals (credited as "Mary Clayton")
"Gimme Shelter" was placed at #38 on Rolling Stoneââ'âs list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" in 2004. Pitchfork Media placed it at number 12 on its list of "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s".
Movies and TV
The 1970 documentary film Gimme Shelter, directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, chronicling the last weeks of the Stones' 1969 US tour and culminating in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert, took its name from the song. A live version of the song played over the credits.
The song was played in a commercial for the American Red Cross' "Play Your Part" public service advertising campaign in 1989. This particular commercial featured popular music artists such as Carly Simon, Branford Marsalis, and Randy Travis providing service in an effort to attract more young people to serve.
Martin Scorsese has used the song as a theme in his crime films Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995) and The Departed (2006), though not in his documentary Shine a Light (2008) about the Stones.
It was also used in the films Adventures in Babysitting (1987), Air America (1990), The War (1994), The Fan (1996), Layer Cake (2004), and in both Flight (2012) and its trailer.
The song was used in a commercial for the game Call of Duty: Black Ops and during the closing moments of the second season of Entourage.
The song was used on The Simpsons episode "Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens, and Gays", in a scene parodying Woodstock.
The song was used in the fifth episode in the second season of Showtime series Dexter.
The song is used in the Life series, episode 10, season 1 (season finale) in 2007.
The song was also used in a Heineken beer commercial featuring Brad Pitt in 2008.
Gimme Shelter is also the title of a 2013 drama film, starring Vanessa Hudgens.
It is used at the end of Person of Interest, season 2, episode 10, 13 December 2012, titled "Shadow Box" as Reese, and three other men in suits, are arrested by the FBI. The episode's plot line concerns an effort by a disabled veteran to steal and return money stolen from other veterans.
The song was used in a February 2013 episode of The Daily Show spoofing the Scorsese uses of the song in a news segment by Jason Jones "exposing" the underground maple syrup criminal organization in Quebec, Canada.
The story of Merry Clayton's contribution to the song is discussed in the documentary film, 20 Feet from Stardom.
During 2014, it was used on the Universal Channel UK promos for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
The song was used for ABC's coverage of the 2014 Indianapolis 500
The song was used in the trailer for the 2014 Rupert Wyatt film The Gambler.
According to WatchMojo.com, the song is ranked 9 among the "Top 10 Overused Songs In Movies And TV".
- Ruth Copeland on her first album Self Portrait, performed with George Clinton's Parliament, in 1969 (reissued on The Invictus Sessions in 2002)
- The original backing singer, Merry Clayton, recorded her own version in 1970 which entered the Billboard Hot 100.
- Grand Funk Railroad on the album Survival in 1971; a #61 U.S. single
- Josefus for their album Dead Man.
- The Sisters of Mercy in 1983, on the B-side of their single "Temple of Love" (released on the album Some Girls Wander by Mistake in 1992).
- The Divine Horsemen, a Los Angeles post-punk band, included a note-perfect cover on their 1987 album Middle of the Night, with co-lead singer Julie Christensen doing a spooky take on Merry Clayton's wailing.
- The Inspiral Carpets in a John Peel Session in 1989.
- The Goo Goo Dolls on their 1989 album Jed
- Metric pay tribute to the song in their track "Gimme Sympathy" on their 2009 album Fantasies.
- John Mellencamp covered the song during his 2001 Cuttin' Heads tour.
- Meat Loaf covered the song during live shows in the 1980s with the vocalist Leslie Aday (aka 'Leslie Loaf') duetting Clayton's parts opposite her husband
- Holy Soldier, a 1980s Christian metal band from Los Angeles, California, on the album Last Train in 1992
- Hawkwind, studio album It Is the Business of the Future to Be Dangerous, 1993
- Michael Hedges, album Strings on Steel, 1993
- Thunder on their album Their Finest Hour (And A Bit) released in October 1995
- The Hellacopters released a cover in 1997 on their 7" "Like No Other Man" released 1998, also included in Cream Of The Crap Vol. 1, 2002
- Ashley Cleveland on her album You Are There, 1998
- Rio Reiser, a German singer, sometimes performed the song on stage; a recording was released only posthumously on the album Am Piano 2, 1999
- LegiÃ£o Urbana, on their album MÃºsica P/ Acampamentos
- Kathy Mattea covered the song on her 2005 album Right Out of Nowhere.
- Turbonegro's cover was an unreleased song that ended up on their rarity collection Small Feces.
- The London Symphony Orchestra on the album Symphonic Music of The Rolling Stones. This version of the song is heard in the Children of Men (2006) trailer.
- Streetlab, techno remix, released 30 January 2007
- Patti Smith released the song as a single from her April 2007 covers album Twelve.
- Keith Urban and Alicia Keys at Live Earth at Giants Stadium on 7 July 2007
- AngÃ©lique Kidjo and Joss Stone covered the song for Kidjo's album Djin Djin and performed it live at the Live Earth concert in Jonnesburg, South Africa on 7 July 2007
- Stereophonics released a cover version as the B-side to "My Friends" in December 2007
- Sheryl Crow incorporated elements of "Gimme Shelter" into live performances of her song "Gasoline", which appeared in its original form on the album Detours.
- Paul Brady & The Forest Rangers covered the song for the final episode of season 2 of Sons of Anarchy. This version is available on the 5-song EP Sons of Anarchy: Shelter.
- U2 covered the song at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame benefit concert on 30 October 2009, with Mick Jagger sharing lead vocals with Bono and featuring The Black Eyed Peas members Fergie, singing Merry Clayton's vocal part, and will.i.am, playing piano and synthesizer.
- Playing for Change made a music video rendition of "Gimme Shelter" which is dedicated to all the lost, homeless and forgotten people in this world.
- Puddle of Mudd covered the song on their 2011 cover album Re:(disc)overed.
- British soul singer Natalie Duncan included a cover of the song on her 2012 debut EP Live In Real World Studios.
- The Underachievers used the introduction of "Gimme Shelter" for the production of their 2013 single "The Proclamation".
- Caleb Johnson and Jena Irene performed this song as a duet on American Idol's Top 7 Performances
"Putting Our House in Order" project
In 1993, a Food Records project collected various versions of the track by the following bands and collaborations, the proceeds of which went to the Shelter charity's "Putting Our House in Order" homeless initiative. The versions were issued across various formats, and had a live version of the song by The Rolling Stones as a common lead track to ensure chart eligibility.
"Gimme Shelter" (pop version â" cassette single)
- Voice of the Beehive and Jimmy Somerville
- Heaven 17 and Hannah Jones
"Gimme Shelter" (alternative version â" CD single)
- New Model Army and Tom Jones
- Cud and Sandie Shaw
"Gimme Shelter" (rock version â" CD single)
- Little Angels
- Hawkwind and Samantha Fox
"Gimme Shelter" (dance version â" 12" single)
- 808 State and Robert Owens
- Pop Will Eat Itself vs Gary Clail vs Ranking Roger vs The Mighty Diamonds vs The On U Sound System
- Blue Pearl (produced and mixed by Utah Saints)
- List of anti-war songs
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics