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Verse Chorus Verse: Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”

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There may not be a song in recorded history with more music videos than the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter."  The Stones themselves didn't make videos for it, but this song has been licensed in dozens of movies.  Mick Jagger is probably right that the only Martin Scorsese film that doesn't use "Gimme Shelter" is Shine a Light, his concert film of The Rolling Stones.

I don't know the first time I heard "Gimme Shelter" but it was in Scorsese's Casino that it made the largest impact on me.  The images on the screen went blurry for me.  I didn't care about the story anymore.  I was pulled out of the film and energized by the intensity of the music.  Mick Jagger called it "a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It's apocalypse."  It's easy to hear why the song has been used so many times in film; the lyrics evoke powerful imagery.

So I'm watching the movie and I recognize Jagger's voice but didn't know which Stones' song it was.  I finished watching it and liked it, but the biggest impact Casino had on me at that time was that it sent me on a mission to find out what the name of that song was.  With a little digging, I solved the riddle and went out and bought my first Stones album: Let it Bleed.  

As great as Jagger and the rest of the band are on this song, it's the guest vocal by Merry Clayton that really sends it into overdrive.  She sings so hard you can hear her voice crack.  We talk about actors being in the moment, but it happens with singers, too.  Clayton sings as if her very soul depends on it, with an untamable ferocity.  It's impossible to imagine her having even one ounce more energy or emotion to give.

Let it Bleed is still my favorite Stones record, and "Gimme Shelter" is still a big part of that.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Nick

    Couldn’t agree more. My only issue is, which song is more powerful — Gimme Shelter or Sympathy for the Devil. Marianne Faithful was supposed to sing on shelter, but it didn’t happen, for reasons I’ve forgotten. But what a stand-in by Clayton.

  • http://donaldgibson.blogspot.com/Gre Donald Gibson

    You didn’t buy your first Stones album ’til 1995???

  • jook

    you must be very young and inexperienced. but your brain is jangling on point.