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Sat, 12.25.1948

Merry Clayton, Singer, and Actress born

Merry Clayton

*Merry Clayton was born on this date in 1948. She is a Black soul and gospel singer and actress.

Merry Clayton was born in Gert Town, New Orleans, Louisiana, on Christmas Day and was given the name "Merry”. She is the daughter of Eva B. Clayton and Reverend A.G. Williams Clayton, Sr. Clayton was raised in New Orleans and spent much of her time in her father’s parish, New Zion Baptist Church. After moving to Los Angeles, she met members of The Blossoms, who convinced her to pursue a music career. Clayton began her recording career in 1962, at the age of 14.

She first sang on "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". In 1963, she recorded the first released version of "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)", the same year that Betty Everett's version reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Early in her career, Clayton performed with Ray Charles (as one of the Raelettes). At the time, Charles was the only artist her father would allow her to see at a live performance.

Clayton is best known for her 1969 duet with Mick Jagger on the Rolling Stones song "Gimme Shelter” Clayton was the band's second choice for the part; The Stones had asked Bonnie Bramlett to sing on the song, but Bramlett's husband Delaney refused to let her perform with the Stones. Along with her frequent partner Clydie King, Clayton sang backing vocals on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama".

In 1970, Clayton recorded her version of "Gimme Shelter," and it became the title track of her debut solo album, released that year. That same year, she performed a live version of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" for the soundtrack for Brewster McCloud and also contributed vocals to the film, Performance. In 1971, she co-wrote the song "Sho' Nuff" about her mother. In 1972, she starred as the original Acid Queen in the first London production of The Who's Tommy. In the mid-1970s, Clayton sang on The Blackbyrds' R&B hit "Rock Creek Park" and continued to release solo albums throughout the next decade, notching several minor R&B chart singles.

Her soundtrack work continued into the 1980s, including "You're Always There When I Need You", the title track for the 1980 Get Smart film The Nude Bomb, and the song "Yes" from Dirty Dancing. In the mid-1980s, Clayton was in the gospel group Brilliance, formed by Della Reese. The other members were O.C. Smith, Vermettya Royster, and Eric Strom. They released an album on Atlanta International Records in 1986. In 1987, Clayton co-starred in the film Maid to Order. That same year, Clayton also played the character "Verna Dee Jordan" in the final season of Cagney & Lacey. In 1989, Clayton recorded a cover version of "Almost Paradise." In 1994, Clayton sang backing vocals and the bridge for "Man with the Golden Gun."

Throughout her career as a backup singer, Clayton's singing can be heard on songs by Pearl Bailey, Phil Ochs, Burt Bacharach, Tom Jones, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King, and on several tracks from Neil Young's debut album. In 2013, she released The Best of Merry Clayton, a compilation of her favorite songs. Clayton was featured in the documentary film 20 Feet from Stardom (2013), which went on to win the Oscar for best documentary at the 86th Academy Awards. 20 Feet from Stardom also won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Music Film, with the award being presented to the featured artists, in addition to the production crew for the film.

In 2015, Clayton was featured on two tracks of Coldplay's album A Head Full of Dreams. On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Merry Clayton among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. Clayton was married to jazz artist Curtis Amy from 1970 until he died in 2002. Her brother is the Little Feat percussionist, Sam Clayton. Clayton had a miscarriage upon returning home from recording "Gimme Shelter," according to the Los Angeles Times. On June 16, 2014, Clayton was severely injured in a car collision in Los Angeles, California. Clayton's legs were later amputated at the knees due to her suffering "profound trauma to her lower extremities" due to the accident. In 2021, her solo album Beautiful Scars was released.

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