Merry Clayton, the “Gimme Shelter” backup singer whose story was featured in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, was badly injured in a car accident in Los Angeles earlier this week. Representatives for the singer posted news of her condition in a statement on her website.
“It is with deep regret, but also deep gratitude, that we announce the following about our beloved Merry Clayton,” the statement read. “At approximately 3:30 p.m. Monday, June 16, 2014, Merry was involved in a major automobile accident in Los Angeles, California. Merry sustained severe injuries to her lower body, including major trauma to her lower extremities. We are truly grateful that our dear Merry is still with us.
“She has a long road of recovery ahead and we thank you all for your prayers as we link arms together with faith and the Lord’s strength for her rapid healing. For all that know her personally, and those that have been blessed by her God-given talents, please know that her spirit is very strong and her faith unwavering. Her voice is not silenced and His praises continue to be on her lips.”
Clayton’s powerhouse vocals have made an impact on a wide variety of musicians, from Ray Charles (whom she supported as a teenaged Raelette) to Carole King, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young. The most famous use of her voice came on her contribution to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” where she sings the line, “Rape! Murder! It’s just a shot away.”
The success of the Academy Award-winning 20 Feet From Stardom brought renewed attention to Clayton’s talents, and a compilation of her 1970s solo work called The Best Of Merry Clayton came out in June 2013.
In an interview with Rolling Stone shortly before the compilation was released, Clayton talked about how much she was enjoying the boost from the film and the opportunity to work with the other singers represented in it. “It’s been a beautiful, precious run,” she said, “and I am loooo-ving it.”