New Orleans native Merry Clayton, one of the backup singers featured in the Oscar-winning documentary “20 Feet from Stardom,” was severely injured Monday in an auto accident in Los Angeles.
A statement from Clayton’s family and her Baton Rouge-based manager, Alan Abrahams, posted on the singer’s website at merryclayton.com, says Clayton “sustained severe injuries to her lower body, including major trauma to her lower extremities.”
“We’re devastated but also rejoicing that she’s sill with us,” Abrahams said Thursday. “She is beyond feisty. She will be singing again. Her fortitude and her faith and her spirit is such that she’s bloodied but not bowed.”
Clayton is perhaps best known for her contribution to the Rolling Stones classic “Gimme Shelter.” Her gospel spirit and sound also lifted recordings by Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Ringo Starr and many more.
Clayton recorded three solo albums for Lou Adler’s Ode Records. Her rendition of The Who’s “The Acid Queen,” performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, is featured on “The Best of Merry Clayton,” a collection of her Ode recordings released last year.
Born on Christmas day in 1948, Clayton lived in Gert Town before her family’s move to Los Angeles when she was 8.
“I remember marching in the Mardi Gras,” she told The Advocate in 2013. “And looking down the street where, at any moment, here would come a parade. There was always something musical going on in New Orleans.”
Director Morgan Neville’s 2013 documentary “20 Feet from Stardom” turned the spotlight on backup singers, including Clayton, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer and Táta Vega. Clayton attended the Louisiana premiere of “20 Feet from Stardom” at the Joy Theater in New Orleans last year.
“When I saw that film I almost went through the roof,” she told The Advocate. “From the first bar, it was just incredible. It’s been a blessing to be involved in such a beautiful, honest film.”