Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost your way

War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

The floods is threat’ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m gonna fade away

War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
Kiss away, kiss away

“Gimme Shelter” is the opening track of the Rolling Stones’s 1969 album Let It Bleed (where it was actually spelled “Gimmie Shelter”, but the more accurate spelling was adopted afterwards). It paints a bleak world view inspired by the Vietnam war, as put by Mick Jagger:

“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.”

Backup vocals are sung here by female guest vocalist Merry Clayton. Jagger explained 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.’

President Barack Obama told Rolling Stone in an interview while campaigning for his first term that the Stones were one his musical heroes (along with Stevie Wonder) and “Gimme Shelter” was his favorite Stones song.

Live versions of the song usually give Clayton’s spot to the Stones’ backing female singers, mostly Lisa Fischer. The 50th anniversary tour had some special appearances by Lady Gaga (New Jersey), Florence Welch (London) and Mary J. Blige (also London ). Grace Potter also had the honors in 2015.

The song would later name a documentary film for the infamous Altamont concert – after all, when Hell’s Angels are providing the security and even stab someone to death, people would ask for shelter.

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