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She was best known for singing on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” Then the 2013 Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom gave Merry Clayton her own star turn and a boost for a huge career revival. But in 2014, Clayton lost both legs from the knees down after a car accident. Now she's releasing her new solo album, Beautiful Scars, on April 9.
How did this project get rolling?
Lou Adler [her friend and the famous producer of Carole King, the Mamas & the Papas, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show] would say to me, “Merry, you have to get well because you know you have to sing.” And I said to myself, Does he know what happened to me? Yet there's something in my experience that says, That's why you have to sing, so that people know: If you can make it through this, they can, too.
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Do you remember your reaction back when you regained consciousness following the car accident?
The doctor said, “Ms. Clayton, we had some hard decisions to make. In order for us to save your life we had to take your legs from the knees down.” And I said, “Well, did anything happen to my bank? When they put the tube down, did they do anything to my throat?” And he said, “Oh, no, Ms. Clayton, we were told that you were a singer, that we had to take care of your vocal box, and everything turned out fine there.” And I said, “Well, then I'll be fine,” and I started to sing the song that Ashford & Simpson wrote for me called “I Can Still Shine."