Song Lyric Sunday — Shelter

This week’s theme for Helen Vahdati’s Song Lyric Sunday is “give/giving.” Though there are tons of songs that came to mind, the song I ended up choosing is The Rolling Stones classic song, “Gimme Shelter.”

“Gimme Shelter” is the opening track of the 1969 album Let It Bleed. The song was written by The Rolling Stones’ lead vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, the band’s primary songwriting team. The Stones didn’t release this song as a single, so it never charted.

After the first verse is sung by Jagger, gospel singer Merry Clayton enters. It was a late night recording session and Clayton, who was pregnant at the time, got the call at the last minute when the song’s producer, Jack Nitzsche, decided the song needed a female vocalist. Clayton showed up with curlers in her hair and wearing silk pajamas. Jagger explained to her that she’d be singing the line, “Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away.”

She did a take of her line, then decided to “blow them out of this room” on the next take. This time, she delivered a chilling vocal an octave higher, her voice cracking on “murder.” And then she went home and went back to bed.

“Gimme Shelter” is about the political and social unrest at the time. There was the war in Vietnam, race riots, and Charles Manson. Mick Jagger sings of needing shelter from this “storm.” He said, “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.“

Here are the song’s lyrics.

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade awayWar, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost your way

War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

The floods is threat’ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m gonna fade away

War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
Kiss away, kiss away

23 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Shelter

    • Fandango October 28, 2018 / 8:14 am

      Thanks, Jim. I thought that Mary Clayton piece was fascinating. I didn’t know that backstory until I was researching for this post.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. ghostmmnc October 28, 2018 / 2:44 pm

    Awesome song!
    Interesting background notes you wrote about, which I never knew. SLS is the best for learning more about our old favorties, and new ones, too. Thanks so much! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango October 28, 2018 / 6:36 pm

      I learned something new, too, when I was finding out more about the song. It’s fun to find that kind of background information.

      Liked by 1 person

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