Happy Birthday Mick Jagger: ‘Gimme Shelter’ Isolated Vocals

By Andy Kahn Jul 26, 2016 3:06 pm PDT

Among the most recognizable and beloved frontmen in rock ‘n’ roll history, Mick Jagger today celebrates his 73rd birthday. The iconic lead vocalist of The Rolling Stones continues to stomp around the stage before massive crowds at sold-out stadiums around the globe. The band’s records continue to influence new generations of attentive listeners and for Mick’s 73rd today, here’s a close look at his contributions to one of the Stones’ most well-known songs – “Gimme Shelter.”

The lead track on the 1969 Stones LP Let It Bleed, Jagger’s politically charged lyrics added a layer of intensity to the song also credited to guitarist Keith Richards. Jagger shared singing duties with guest vocalist Merry Clayton, whose credits also include recordings with Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd and many others. Clayton and Jagger’s duet on “Gimme Shelter” was a highlight of the album and the story of the recording session is one of the greats in rock history.

The Stones were recording in Los Angeles when it was decided a female should sing the opening track’s controversial “Rape, murder – it’s just a shot away. It’s just a shot away,” lyrics. A pregnant still-wearing-pajamas Clayton was awoken in the middle night and brought to the studio to add her vocal part to the song for a band she whose name she didn’t recognize. The resulting performance is the kind that makes you stop what you’re doing and listen to the two vocalists giving their all to a song. Listen to the impassioned isolated vocals on “Gimme Shelter” here:

Jagger and Clayton discussed the making of “Gimme Shelter” for the Academy Award-winning documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom. Get the full story of how the spontaneous collaboration came about and more of the isolated vocals in the clip below:

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