MERRY CLAYTON STARS IN THE OSCAR WINNING DOCUMENTARY "20 FEET FROM STARDOM."
BY: LANA K. WILSON-COMBS
N2Entertainment.net interviewed Merry Clayton at the Broadcast Film Critics’ Movie Awards show and did a follow up phone interview with the singer a few weeks prior to her car accident that has left her hospitalized. N2Entertainment.net sends our best wishes and prayers to Clayton for a speedy and full recovery.
SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA--As clichéd as it might sound, Merry Clayton (pictured) was destined for stardom. Born in Gert Town, New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of a Baptist preacher, Clayton was just 14-years-old when she recorded "Who Can I Count On? (When I Can't Count On You)" with Bobby Darin for his 1963 album, “You're The Reason I'm Living.”
Since that chart-topping single, Clayton never looked back. Although determined to make her mark in the music industry as a solo singer, Clayton became one of the most sought after back-up/session singers around. Ray Charles made her a Raylette. And soon Clayton’s booming, soulful voice was featured on most every major rock and pop star’s recordings from Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” Joe Cocker’'s “Feelin’ Alright,” to Carole King’s “Way over Yonder” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”
However, it was Clayton’s blistering verse “Rape, murder/It''s just a shot away” on the Rolling Stones' 1969 hit "Gimme Shelter," that solidified Clayton as a bona fide superstar.
And, since starring in last year’s Oscar winning documentary “20 Feet From Stardom”--the spotlight is finally shining—ever so brightly on Clayton once again.
Directed by Morgan Neville, “20 Feet From Stardom” tells the remarkable story of longtime, studio/session singers like Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, Darlene Love—who audiences may remember as Danny Glover’s wife in the “Lethal Weapon” movies— Claudia Lennear, (Former “Ikette”), Lisa Fischer, (A former Marvellete) ,Tata Vega, Judith Hill (Michael Jackson’s “This is It”) and the incomparable, Clayton.
In addition, Ode Records/Legacy, a division of Sony Music Entertainment released “The Best Of Merry Clayton,” the first compilation ever issued on the singer.
Despite the belated, yet well-deserved adulation and exposure, Clayton says she isn’t bitter about her career.
“Look, it’s been an amazing journey for me and I am so humbled and feel so honored that after all this time I am being mentioned again and in a big way,” says Clayton. “I mean life is too short to be bitter and angry and carry grudges. Plus, I’ve been recognized. It’s a big thing to sing with Mick Jagger on “Gimme Shelter.” The thing is with this business, you get recognition but not always the sort of recognition you think you’re worthy of having or should have.”
Clayton says that it was her late husband, jazz artist Curtis Amy who worked hard to make her a star too. “The problem was that at the time, Aretha Franklin was already was on the scene and Diana Ross had made her mark in the industry as well,” says Clayton. “So there was one queen and one diva and that’s pretty much all they needed at the time.”
And timing is eveything. For Clayton, making “20 Feet From Stardom” was inspiring and she says really felt like a whole new chapter of her life opening up again.”
“It's nice to look back and see where you’ve been,” says Clayton. “It’s also great that I’m even still around to continue to do what I love.”
In fact, the success of “20 Feet From Stardom” is opening all sorts of doors for Clayton now. Mick Jagger is considering executive producing a TV version of “Twenty Feet from Stardom” along with the film's director Morgan Neville. There’s even talk of a taking it to Broadway.
“I’m hearing all of it, says Clayton with a laugh. “And you better believe I plan to be a part of all of it.”