Incredible backing vocal performances


1st Jan 2015 Music

Incredible backing vocal performances

Backing vocalists tend to get overlooked when songs rise to fame. They might get credited on the album cover or mentioned in an NME interview, but they never really get the attention they deserve. Unless, of course, they give a mind-blowing performance like the people we're going to tell you about.


1. Merry Clayton in Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones


Clayton was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and is a gospel and soul singer. Surprisingly though, she wasn't actually the first choice to sing on Gimme Shelter. The Stones first asked a lady named Bonnie Bramlett to sing in the background, but her husband refused to let her work with the band - and this was in 1969! Another interesting fact about Clayton's appearance on Gimme Shelter is that her name is misspelled on a few releases as 'Mary'.



2. Clare Torry in Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd

Due to her amazing covers of popular music, it was in the late 60s that she was asked by Alan Parsons to sing on The Great Gig in the Sky. Here's the real clincher though, Torry was only paid £30 for her work on the track! In the end, she sued EMI and Pink Floyd for royalties - and quite right too! The settlement was never disclosed, so nobody knows the end of that story but her, EMI and the band. 


3. Mick Jagger in You're So Vain by Carly Simon


Jagger's backing vocals become more and more prominent as the song goes on - although he was never officially credited for his work on the track. When you hear it, it's almost as if he's protesting the idea that the song is about him. This is something that both Simon and Jagger had to deny hundreds of times in countless interviews as everybody was convinced that the song was in fact about Mick Jagger. 


4. Elizabeth Fraser in Primitive Painters by Felt

Many feel that the work of Fraser on this track outshines the band. Fraser herself was a relatively successful singer in her own right; best known for her band The Cocteau Twins who had hits with songs like Pearly Dewdrops Drops, she had a most distinctive singing voice. This song was one of very few that she provided backing vocals for, so Felt ought to feel a little bit honoured!


5. Harry Nilsson on You're Sixteen by Ringo Starr


This song was originally released by Johnny Burnette, but Ringo's version is arguably more popular. Many listeners' favourite thing about this song is actually the backing vocals, which were delivered by Harry Nilsson - one fan describes them as "butter smooth", high praise indeed. 

We hope you enjoyed our run-down of the best backing vocals of all time. Why not stick around and check out some of our other articles if you want to learn more?



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