Gimme the Unexpected Process of Brilliance
You know the song “Gimme Shelter” by The Stones? Yeah. You probably do. Because it’s one of the greatest rock & roll songs ever written.
What about Merry Clayton? Do you know of her? Probably not. Because Merry never really reached Mick Jagger-level stardom. A woman with all the talent in the world and a set of pipes that can bring any house down always found herself on the edge of the limelight.
But, without Merry, there would be no Gimme Shelter for Mick and the boys. It’d simply just be another song on Let It Bleed; if it makes the cut at all. The main reason for its success is because creative & artistic brilliance came together in a room one morning at 2 A.M. in 1969. Nobody scheduled it in their calendars. They didn’t plan 6 weeks out for Merry to be at the studio at 2 A.M. sharp warmed up and ready because that’s when she works best. They needed talent. And STAT. They were 1,000 feet deep in the creative process and weren’t gonna call it a night just because Merry was sleeping. Or pick somebody else completely because she was pregnant.
Worlds collided that day.
And rock & roll brilliance was made because a room full of artists challenged one another and brought out the very best of themselves. They gave into the process of creation. They didn’t overthink anything. Or force it. They trusted themselves, and one another. And when they allowed each other to add their very own style and personality to the collective… a masterpiece that we now know as Gimme Shelter was the ultimate result.
This is a clip from a documentary “20 Feet from Stardom”… currently on Netflix.
So what’s the point of this cute tale of historical rock & roll awesomeness?
You can’t plan this shit!
It’s not something that automatically happens between the hours of 9 and 5. Rarely convenient. Or calculated. Or scheduled. And it sure as hell isn’t automatic. But, much like The Force, if you allow it to take control and flow from you… it’s powerful beyond all measure.
As an artist, allow yourself to have an ego and a swagger and a confidence. But, allow your ego to be a catalyst and not a cancer. Feed off of others. Work to outshine them through healthy competition. Add to the conversation and the product, don’t take away from it because you’re not the shining star in the whole ordeal.
Merry Clayton came in and worked to outshine Jagger in the studio. And, she did. Holy shit did she ever?! But… she didn’t let her ego get in the way of the process or the overall collective creativity just because she wasn’t going to be the shining star in all of this. She added to it. She understood her role in the grand scheme. She played it to her absolute best ability. And by adding her powerful brilliance, alongside The Rolling Stones, together they created one of the greatest songs in rock & roll history.
And, in my opinion, by NOT doing all of that and just bringing her talent to the group: Merry Clayton is the shining brilliance that makes Gimme Shelter everything that it is to all of us.