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Gimme Shelter

"Gimme Shelter"
Song by The Rolling Stones from the album Let It Bleed
Released 5 December 1969
Recorded 23 February and 2 November 1969
Genre Hard rock[1]
Length 4:37
Label Decca Records/ABKCO
Writer Jagger/Richards
Producer Jimmy Miller
Let It Bleed track listing
Audio sample

"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. It is often considered to be the band's greatest song. Greil Marcus, writing in Rolling Stone magazine at the time of its release, said of it, "The Stones have never done anything better."[2]

The song features female vocals by Merry Clayton.


  • Inspiration and recording 1
  • Releases on compilation albums and live recordings 2
    • Music video 2.1
  • Personnel 3
  • Accolades 4
  • Movies and TV 5
  • Cover versions 6
    • "Putting Our House in Order" project 6.1
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • External links 9

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 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."[3]

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."[4]

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 – 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.[5]

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.[6] 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[7][8] 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.[9]

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 '97–98 (1998), Rolling Stones – Four Flicks (2003), 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 Gimme Shelter, Hot Rocks 1964–1971, Forty Licks and GRRR!.

Music video

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.[10]



"Gimme Shelter" was placed at #38 on Rolling Stone‍ '​s 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".[11]

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.[12]

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

External links

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Wenner, Jann. "Jagger Remembers" at the Wayback Machine (archived May 18, 2007), Rolling Stone (14 December 1995). Accessed 20 May 2007.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Gimme Shelter". (2007). Accessed 20 May 2007.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter" Danny Howells Extended Mix by Danny Howells on SoundButt - Hear the world’s sounds
  8. ^ Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter" (Danny Howells Unreleased Extended Mix) on YouTube
  9. ^ "Gimme Shelter". (2007). Accessed 20 May 2007.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Staff Lists: The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s | Features | Pitchfork
  12. ^ The Paley Center for Media
  13. ^ The Daily Show - The Canadian Maple Syrup Syndicate
  14. ^ The Gambler Official Trailer #1
  15. ^ Top 10 Overused Songs In Movies And TV
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^


See also

"Gimme Shelter" (dance version – 12" single)

"Gimme Shelter" (rock version – CD single)

"Gimme Shelter" (alternative version – CD single)

"Gimme Shelter" (pop version – cassette single)

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.

"Putting Our House in Order" project

"Gimme Shelter"
Single by Patti Smith
from the album Twelve
Released 2007
Format Digital download
Recorded 2007
Genre Rock
Length 4:32
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer(s) Patti Smith
Patti Smith singles chronology
"Gimme Shelter"
"Gimme Shelter"
Single by Grand Funk Railroad
from the album Survival
Released 1971
Recorded 1971
Genre Hard rock, heavy metal
Length 6:29
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer(s) Terry Knight
Grand Funk Railroad singles chronology
"Feelin' Alright"
"Gimme Shelter"
"People, Let's Stop the War"

Cover versions

According to, the song is ranked 9 among the "Top 10 Overused Songs In Movies And TV".[15]

The song was used in the trailer for the 2014 Rupert Wyatt film The Gambler.[14]

The song was used for ABC's coverage of the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

The song was used in the 10th episode of the 2nd season of Covert Affairs.

During 2014, it was used on the Universal Channel UK promos for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

The story of Merry Clayton's contribution to the song is discussed in the documentary film, 20 Feet from Stardom.


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