December 25, 1948 |
Gert Town, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
|Associated acts||The Raelettes, The Rolling Stones
Merry Clayton (born December 25, 1948) is an American soul and gospel singer (both solo and back-up), and an actress. She has provided a number of back-up vocal tracks to songs recorded by major performing artists during the 1960s, most notably with her duet with Mick Jagger on The Rolling Stones song "Gimme Shelter". Merry is featured in 20 Feet from Stardom, the Oscar-winning documentary about background singers and their contributions to the music industry. In 2013, she released The Best of Merry Clayton, a compilation of her best and most favorite songs.
Born in Gert Town, New Orleans, Louisiana, Clayton began her recording career in 1962 at the age of fourteen, singing "Who Can I Count On? (When I Can't Count on You)" as a duet with Bobby Darin on his album "You're the Reason I'm Living". A year later, she recorded the first version of "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)", although it was Betty Everett's version of the same year that reached the top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100. Her early career included performances with artists including Ray Charles (as one of The Raelettes), Pearl Bailey, Phil Ochs, and Burt Bacharach. (She is often credited as having recorded with Elvis Presley but her name does not appear in Elvis sessionographies.) In 1971 she co-wrote the song "Sho' Nuff", which is about her mother. She contributed vocals to Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's 1968 film Performance.
She is best known for her 1969 performance in a duet with Mick Jagger on the Rolling Stones song "Gimme Shelter". (The Stones had intended to have Bonnie Bramlett sing, but Bramlett was not available, possibly because of illness.) Clayton also sang backing vocals on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama". Early in her career, Clayton sang backup vocals for Tom Jones, Joe Cocker ("Feelin' Alright"), Linda Ronstadt and Carole King. She also originated the role of the Acid Queen in the original 1972 London production of The Who's Tommy. In 1973, she was featured prominently on Ringo Starr's "Oh My My", a Billboard Top 10 single in early 1974. More recently, Clayton has provided background vocals for Sparta's latest album Threes on the songs "Atlas" and "Translation". As an actress, she co-starred with Ally Sheedy in the 1987 film Maid to Order, and played Verna Dee Jordan in the final season of Cagney & Lacey.
In 1970, Clayton recorded her own version of "Gimme Shelter," and it became the title track of her debut solo album, released that year. Her version would be the first of five singles under her name to crack the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #73. In the mid 1970s, she sang on The BlackByrds' R&B hit "Rock Creek Park". She continued to release solo albums throughout the next decade, notching several minor R&B singles. Clayton performs a live version of what has been deemed the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing", on the soundtrack for the 1970 Robert Altman film Brewster McCloud.
Clayton sang "You're Always There When I Need You," the main title for the 1980 film The Nude Bomb, which is the first Get Smart movie and stars Don Adams. She also sang the song "Yes" that was in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, and featured on the soundtrack album. This tune became her biggest hit to date to crack the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #45 in 1988. She also recorded backing vocals for and sang the "man with the golden gun" bridge on Tori Amos's 1994 hit, "Cornflake Girl".
She had a miscarriage upon returning home from recording "Gimme Shelter"; some hypothesize this was due to the strain associated with reaching such high notes while singing, although the validity of such claims is highly disputable.
|1975||Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow||Ode||146||50|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|1970||"Gimme Shelter"||73||—||—||Gimme Shelter|
|1972||"After All This Time"||71||—||—||Merry Clayton|
|1973||"Oh No Not My Baby"||72||30||—||Non-album song|
|1975||"Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow"||45||—||—||Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow|
|1988||"Yes"||45||79||70||Dirty Dancing (soundtrack)|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|2013||20 Feet from Stardom||Herself|
- True, Christopher. Merry Clayton Biography. Allmusic. AOL Music
- No. 1 in May 1991, an excerpt from The Best of 1000 UK No.1 Hits published by Omnibus Press
- Jorgensen, Ernst. Elvis Presley : A Life in Music : The Complete Recording Sessions St. Martins Press, 1998 (ISBN 0312185723).
- Heckman, Don. "Merry Clayton from 'Newahlins.'" New York Times (July 16, 1972): p. D11, D22, D24.
- Paytress, Mark. The Rolling Stones: Off the Record Omnibus Press, 2003 (ISBN 07119886920): p. 181.
- Dupree, Tom (1974-10-24). "Lynyrd Skynyrd in Sweet Home Atlanta". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2006-09-17.
- Merry Clayton- Gimme Shelter @Discogs.com
- Voce, Steve. "Obituary: Curtis Amy." The Independent [London] (June 11, 2002; accessed: May 14, 2008)
- Crazy Horse, Kandia. Rip It Up: The Black Experience in Rock N Roll 1st ed. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. (ISBN 1-4039-6243-X): p. 205.
- Snowden, Don (March 13, 1986). "For Clayton, The Gloom Is Gone". Los Angeles Times.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 110. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.