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Merry Clayton suffered a miscarriage after singing so hard in Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter

Merry Clayton suffered a miscarriage after singing so hard in Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter

The gospel and soul icon wasn't able to listen to the song for many years because of the miscarriage.

Merry Clayton, the performer who served backing vocals for the Rolling Stones, Coldplay and more had a miscarriage after a recording session.

The 74-year-old soul and gospel icon is perhaps best known for her searing performance on the Rolling Stones song ‘Gimme Shelter’, the opening track from the band’s 1969 album Let It Bleed.

Widely regarded as one of the best songs ever recorded, it covers topics of murder, rape and war, which captured and articulated the fear surrounding the era amid the Vietnam War.

Behind the scenes, Clayton suffered a huge loss while contributing to the track. Her husband of 32 years, musical director Curtis Amy, received a phone call one night in 1969 asking if Clayton would sing on the Rolling Stones’ track.

Clayton provided background vocals for 'Gimme Shelter'.
REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

The former Ray Charles backing singer was four months pregnant when she recorded her dynamic vocals at Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood not long after the call came through.

“I called Curtis: ‘These boys want me to sing about rape and murder,’ she told The Guardian in 2021. “I wanted them to hear me, talking real loud to my husband on the phone. But we got the gist – that it was part of the song and not something just flying out of the sky.

“I was tired, it was cold and my voice cracked. We listened back and they said: ‘Oh that’s bloody fabulous. Can you do it again?’”

The next day, Clayton suffered a miscarriage which she attributes to the strain she put on her body to reach the vocal peaks heard on the track and pushing the heavy recording studio doors.

'Gimme Shelter' is regarded as one of the best songs ever recorded.
INTERFOTO / Alamy Stock Photo

It took Clayton ‘years’ to get over her loss and she wasn’t able to listen to the Stones’ song because she associated it with losing her baby.

She explained: “We lost a little girl. It took me years and years and years to get over that. You had all this success with Gimme Shelter and you had the heartbreak with this song.

“It left a dark taste in my mouth. It was a rough, rough time.”

Clayton did not have any other children.

Clayton suffered a miscarriage the day after the recording session.
MARKA / Alamy Stock Photo

Mick Jagger has also recalled asking Clayton to contribute to the song in a 2015 interview with NPR. “We randomly phoned up this poor lady in the middle of the night, and she arrived in her curlers and proceeded to do that in one or two takes, which is pretty amazing,” he shared.

“She came in and knocked off this rather odd lyric. It’s not the sort of lyric you give anyone–‘Rape, murder/It’s just a shot away’–but she really got into it, as you can hear on the record.”

Clayton – who is prominently featured in documentary 20 Feet from Stardom about the astonishing work of backing singers - went on to record her own version of the song for her 1970 studio album which was also named Gimme Shelter.

For baby loss support contact Tommy's and to learn more about miscarriage visit

Featured Image Credit: YouTube/Andy Gallagher / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Music, Celebrity, Parenting