April 8, 2021
The singer who backed the Rolling Stones, Coldplay and more weathered a miscarriage, then the loss of her legs in a car accident – but her new album Beautiful Scars shows she refuses to give up
Merry Clayton has an excellent memory. The 72-year-old singer tells tales with such particular detail: the warmth of falling asleep between gospel legends Mahalia Jackson and Linda Hopkins in the pews of her father’s church in Louisiana; the recording sessions with Bobby Darin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Rolling Stones, for whom she delivered the searing holler of Gimme Shelter.
What Clayton has no memory of is the 2014 car accident that was so severe that doctors were forced to amputate both of her legs below the knee. She remembers waking up in hospital, but the incident itself, and much of the five months she spent recovering, is lost. “It was like I was in another place,” she explains, speaking from her home in Los Angeles. “I knew I was here in the world, but it was just like I was somewhere else. I was in la-la land.”