As part of our War and Remembrance collaboration with Wessex Scene, this is the fifth in a series of Nostalgic News pieces looking at music, TV shows, films and literature that are celebrating big anniversaries this year. The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ was released as a single on 5th December 1969.
The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ is 50 years old this year.
An ‘end-of-world song’, as coined by Mick Jagger, ‘Gimme Shelter’ voices the hopelessness felt by the world as one of the most devastating wars in history, the Vietnam War, unfolded before their very eyes. Guest singer Merry Clayton’s desperate cries of ‘Rape! Murder! It’s just a shot away! War! Children! It’s just a shot away!’ on the chorus embody such horror, with the lyrics implying the fragility of peace; society is just one shot away from falling into chaos.
The anti-violence sentiment of the song was pushed further by the bands playing at the infamous Altamount Free Concert only a day after its release, wherein Meredith Hunter was murdered during their set.
50 years on, the anti-war message of ‘Gimme Shelter’ is still as deeply felt now as it was back then, and it stands as one of the best protest songs ever written.