“Gimmie shelter” was released by the Rolling Stones on their album “Let it Bleed” on December 5, 1969. Released during the height of the Vietnam War and in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, this song is very clearly commenting on the violent nature of the world at the time. The lyrics repeatedly mention rape, murder, and how war is “just a shot away”, leaving no doubt as to what the Rolling Stones are talking about in their lyrics. At the time these words were considered extremely raunchy and controversial by many people, and guest vocalist, Merry Clayton was included in this group. She was appalled when she first heard what they wanted her to sing, though she channeled the pain and anguish that she felt about the civil rights movement, as a black woman. As a result, her vocals in this piece are heralded as some of the most emotional ever recorded. Her performance is so emotional that her voice cracked twice during the song.
Towards the end of the song the lyrics change in tone as “War, children, it’s just a shot away” is changed to “I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away”. This is indicative that, although the Rolling Stones portray a very bleak world view that is full of war and danger, that it is possible that it could be turned around if the hate were turned to love, and the gun shots replaced by kisses. This was a very common ideal at the time, as the anti-war movement was very strong during the entirety and even after the Vietnam War.
The Rolling Stones released a song that was shocking, representative of the era it was released and also extremely popular. In an era that was marked by the strife of war and civil unrest, they seemed to have managed to capture a glimpse of what life was like.