Merry Clayton


Beautiful Scars

I know one thing. I know God is in control. I thank God every day. God, thank you for my gift! 

I began my recording career singing at 14, and by 16, I was the lead Raelette, performing with Ray Charles. She later was the main backup vocal on the Rolling Stone's song Gimme Shelter.. 

I trained in her father’s church in New Orleans in the ways of the Lord, and as a woman and an artist, have never departed from them. Which is not to say I haven’t been tested. 

I was in a near-fatal car accident not far from my Los Angeles home. I woke up in the hospital to the news that to save my life, doctors had to amputate both my legs below the knee. I spent five months in the hospital and nearly five years in rehabilitation. 

I thought I knew patience. You don’t know patience until you have lost both of your legs from the knee down and have to learn to steady yourself in prosthetic legs to move about your home. 

Still, I wouldn’t change a thing. Even the bad, because everything that made me break, it made me who I am and allowed me to walk on faith. My biggest fear was about whether my voice was still all there. 

I’ve always felt I felt if I just gave my heart to what I was doing, I would automatically be a star. 

Then, when I needed the push to get back out there, Rock & Roll Famer Lou Adler did just that. “My thought was, if anything could bring her back to where she was before the accident, and what she thinks about and what she feels, it was music,” Adler said. “And that’s why I might’ve been overly obsessive, but she allowed me to be when I kept on saying, ‘You’ve got to sing, Merry, you’ve got to sing.” 

After the car accident, when I was in the intensive care unit surrounded by family and right after the amputation, I’m just going to sing. And I did the gospel standard, “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired.” It helped everyone know I was going to be okay. 

I live by faith, not by sight. I always knew who I was, but I also knew whose I was. I had faith I would have been fine if I’d never been able to sing again, because I had done my duty here on earth. But like the song says, God was not through with me yet.

 When I woke up from surgery, the doctors were very tender and very sweet. “They said, ‘OK, Ms. Clayton, in order to save your life, we had to amputate both legs from the knee down.’ I said, ‘OK, but did you, did anything happen to my voice?’ ‘Oh, no. Nothing happened to your voice“.

Then I just started to sing. I knew if I could sing, I would be OK. But I also knew that if I couldn’t sing, I would still be OK. It would take me a minute to get it back together. I believed it. I knew that in my spirit. As my pastor would say, “I know in my knower.”

The only thing that’s different about my singing is I do it mostly sitting. However, if I have to reach for a note, I have bars, very similar to parallel bars, like in gymnastics, and I’ll have to reach up on those. Before she just had to reach within myself. Now I have to do something physically to get it. 

I just really had to pray to get through the song” Beautiful Scars”. I prayed, “Lord, please. I’ve got to sing this song and I’ve got to sing it with love and with dignity, but I can’t sing it crying, you know?” So, I asked God to dry my weeping eyes.  I got through it. 

I’d learned a long time ago when I was complaining about some show business thing to my godmother, actress Della Reese, she had told me, “That’s called L-I-F-E. And you don’t get through this life without going through some things.” 

“You can’t have a testimony without going through a test, darling,” said Merry. “And I’ve been through the fire. I’ve been through the fire, honey, and through the rain, and came out sounding like gold, like pure gold. I’m just glimmering.”

You can contact Merry Clayton by following / connecting with her on  Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Purchase Beautiful Scars

Compiled by founder Carolyn Shannon
Photos contributed by Mathieu Bitton



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