Ooh, a storm is threatening
My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Ooh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin'
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost your way

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Rape, murder
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Rape, murder, yeah
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Rape, murder
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away, yeah

The floods is threatening
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
I tell you love, sister, it's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
Kiss away, kiss away


Lyrics submitted by spliphstar

Gimme Shelter Lyrics as written by Keith Richards, Mick Jagger

Lyrics © Abkco Music Inc.

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Gimme Shelter song meanings
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109 Comments

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  • +14
    General Comment

    One of the best songs ever! I think the need for shelter represents a vulnerability. Sort of like teetering between two opposite and paradoxical states. But in the stark contrast between war being "just a shot away" and love being "just a kiss away," there's a powerful realization that makes deciding on where you'd like to stand so much easier.

    That was my personal take on it. But I think most would agree that the need for shelter probably refers to just wanting protection from some of the spiralling atrocious acts that take place in the world..

    john785on May 06, 2012   Link
  • +7
    General Comment

    I think everybody here is right to some extent.

    This song clearly has multiple meanings. The initial two verses seem to indicate the Vietnam war and how people could be eradicated from the planet and from life with just a "shot." The third verse seems to indicate violent protesting and likely altamont. The fourth verse with the high pitched "rape, murder its just a shot away" likely indicates heroin use (and maybe the excessive drug abuse at altamont). The distorted guitar after the verse sounds like a druggy shot into the veins, and the piercing screams of Ms. Clayton seem to infer drug use (regardless of what the band says, a mainstream band like the Rolling Stones would never admit to blatant heroin references, so they instead imply it). The ending it's just a kiss away likely refers to Richards and Mick Jagger's wife's affair.

    This song is essentially about living on the edge how life can change so fast at anytime. You could be happy one moment, and be blown up, have a horrible drug addiction or be cheating on your wife. The song has multiple meanings and is very 60s. Top ten rock songs of all time for sure.

    jsperon February 25, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    A couple of other notes about this song:

    -Keith wrote the musical part in his car in TEN MINUTES, waiting for Mick, who he had just found out was sleeping with then-wife Anita Pallenburg. In fact, he knew that was what was probably going on at that moment. -Mick did write the lyrics, and they are in fact about the chance that War is always around us, and he did have the Vietnam war in mind. -Opening played on an Electric acoustic. -Guitar tracks to this song are so amazing. The chugging sound never ceases and that is something that doesn't often happen. -I did hear that Keith did write everything for Wild Horses. -Rolling Stone called this the PERFECT SONG recently, and I tend to agree.

    Stamphateron December 14, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    What? Good lord here we go again. Not every song is about heroin. For one thing, Mick Jagger wasn't into heroin. Secondly, Keith Richards has always hated the fact that drug use became a celebrated thing and a topic for lyrics. He's always stated that heroin was a musicians thing--a behind closed doors thing. I can only assume you're being sarcastic mentioning Cantrell and Staley as they were 3 and 2 years old at the time this song was released. With all of the morons who post on here, you never can tell. By the way--Alice in Chains was a great f'n band!

    JumpyJackon January 10, 2005   Link
  • +3
    Memory

    I've been a RS fan since I heard Time Is On My Side on my parent's car radio - I was 12 years old. I'm almost sixty now, and every time I hear the guitar intro to Gimme Shelter it sends a shiver up my spine and makes my brain snap back to life. It's either genius, inspiration or the biggest case of dumb luck rock and roll ever heard. Nothing else in my opinion comes close, and I've never even cared what the song was about or who actually wrote what. I could listen to the first sixty seconds over and over without ever tiring of it. That's on me, mate.

    guitarboy6on March 20, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    What a great song this is. Written entirely by Keith Richards as were many Stones songs credited to "Jagger-Richards".

    JumpyJackon November 12, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    This song just sends shivers down my spine. I mean, when Merry Clayton does her solo, it's pretty much amazing. You can tell she had a lot of heart and soul in that solo... Her voice even cracked because she was singing with such fervor and spirit, you know?

    riegeknon November 06, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Sorry to crush some bubbles here, but Keith Richards has stated that he never wrote lyrics about recreational drug use. People seem to want to interpret all their songs as something about heroin. In fact the only times they did sing about drugs were about abuse (ref: Sister Morphine, Mother's Little Helper).

    It was largely Vietnam that inspired this song according to interviews with Richards and Jagger, but also took into account some natural disasters happening worldwide at the time.

    Trailmasteron September 28, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    A shout-out for Merry Clayton, the most famous female backup vocalist you never heard of, who recorded the vocals in just a few takes when summoned to the studio (literally) in the middle of the night in curlers and VERY pregnant. (She subsequently miscarried, and some blame the strain of this recording session).

    Ms. Clayton is still alive, but sadly lost both her lower legs following a car crash in June 2014.

    It's literally impossible for me to imagine this song without her vocals. I'm not sure Gimme Shelter would have become the instant classic it did without her voice.

    We're thinking of you, Merry—and thanks for the memories!

    punkdadon July 12, 2017   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    ok camel690 idk what the hell you are smoking. this song is not about heroin users. its acutally about war smart one. its about the Vietnam war, its a protest song. why the fuck would they use war in describing heroin. maybe that its a war to quite but no, this song is not about heorin. why would they be talking about love is just a kiss away? hmm?

    anyway this song is amazing and i am writing a paper on it. it is amazing. fallonyourknees is dram right!

    crazyclaire2200on April 17, 2008   Link

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