Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Mick n’ Merry: Wow!

I watched a terrific movie the other night: 20 Feet From Stardom. It’s about the backup singers who effectively stamped the music of the 60s and 70s with that special, soulful sound. Yes, they were usually black, and they were usually women, and that means they were usually screwed when it came to money. Cryin’ shame, because as artists like Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, Sting, and, of course, the Rolling Stones knew, you had to have that certain something that only three or four black girls could provide. As Lou Reed put it, “And the colored girls say ‘do-doodoo-doodoo-doodoodoodoo.'”

One of the girl-singer titans of the era was Merry Clayton, and she’s all over the film. In spite of her own solo material, she’s probably best known for her vocal in the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” In this clip you can hear the vocal track — just Merry and Mick — isolated from the rest of the tracks. It’ll blow your mind.You can really hear her vocal cords busting blood vessels when it’s just her, soaking in reverb.

I love these isolated tracks you can find on YouTube. I don’t know how the techies do it, but it’s fascinating to hear the details that get buried by layers and layers of sound. The details, and the mistakes. (It’s true!)

For your listening convenience today, in this clip the singing begins in earnest at 55 seconds. Merry’s solo is around 2:45, and the vocals end around 4:13.

Dig it!


6 comments on “Mick n’ Merry: Wow!

  1. John W. Howell
    July 12, 2014

    Very cool. After this, I went back and listened to the full mix and wow talk about feeling like I learned something. Loved it.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 12, 2014

      Pretty awesome, ain’t it? I like Mick’s approving “woo” when Merry’s finished with her solo.

  2. Gretchen Getsinger
    July 13, 2014

    I watched 20 Feet from Stardom a month or so ago and enjoyed it so much I gave it 5 stars. The track you shared was one of the best moments in a movie that was filled with great music and back up singers with incredibly beautiful voices.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 13, 2014

      It really was an unexpectedly great movie, wasn’t it? I’m looking into the recordings of some of the singers now, and they are fantastic!

      • Gretchen Getsinger
        July 13, 2014

        I picked the movie because it looked ok. Never expected it to be fantastic and memorable. Fun to share with someone else who found it unexpectedly great. I plan to watch it again in the near future. I always wanted to be able to sing like those women; awesome voices and talent and glad they’re getting some recognition.

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This entry was posted on July 12, 2014 by in Music and tagged , , , .
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