Gimme a Viral “Shelter”

Charity video featuring musicians from around the world gives new resonance to a Rolling Stones classic.

Mick Jagger’s trading of vocals with fellow superstars Fergie and Bono on "Gimme Shelter" marked a highlight of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary concert in 2009, proving the 40-year-old rock hit has gathered no moss.

This week, though, we're getting an even bigger kick out of the latest version of the Rolling Stones classic, thanks to a video that patches together performances from mostly unknown musicians from around the world.

The video, which we stumbled onto via Gizmodo, represents the latest effort from Playing for Change, the charity-minded folks who employed a similar concept in 2008 with a pastiche of "Stand By Me" as performed by street musicians from all over. That short went viral, capturing more than 32 million views on YouTube.

The "Gimme Shelter" cover, released last week, has garnered a fraction of the hits so far, but is showing viral potential.

The song features, among other musicians, a slide guitar player in Italy, an Indian percussionist, a Brazilian bassist, a New Orleans washboard specialist and singers in Jamaica and New York – including the great bluesman Taj Mahal, who also contributes a mean harmonica riff. Musicians from Japan, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Mali also are represented.

The new version of the tune is slower than the original, but packs a plaintive urgency that give the key lyrics – "War, children, it's just a shot away” and “Love, sister, it's just a kiss away" – a new resonance. The tone keeps in the spirit of Playing for Change, which raises money for music education programs and has the lofty, Lennon-esque goal of bringing peace through music.

"We dedicate this song to all the lost, homeless and forgotten people in this world," reads the blurb accompanying the video. "It is in the shelter of each other that the people live."

That may sound a little heavy for prelude to a rock anthem, but the message is backed by Jagger and Keith Richards’ enduring song – and the community the video creates through the sights and sounds of a wide array of performers sharing the universal language of music.

Check out the video below - it's just a click away.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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