In the studio version of Gimmie Shelter by the Rolling Stones, the female vocal part was created by Merry Clayton, who sounds like she is shaking the earth to its core while communing with the great beyond. When it came time for the Stones to hire a woman who could reproduce this magic every night on tour, Lisa Fischer was the only choice.
As detailed in the Academy Award winning, 2013 documentary about being a back-up singer, 20 Feet From Stardom, Fischer is an uncanny talent. She possesses technical skill and power on par with the greatest opera singers in history, but is able to use her voice like a guided missile, provoking the perfect emotional response intended by the song.
On the road with her own band, Grand Baton, after 25 years with the Rolling Stones, Fischer performs at the Living Arts Centre on April 28.
“I’m so looking forward to it,” says Fischer about the Mississauga show.
Raised in the Fort Greene neighbourhood of Brooklyn, Lisa emerged from New York’s studio scene in the early-1980s and quickly became session singer royalty. She spent most of her early career supporting Tina Turner, Luther Vandross and Sting, before the call went out for permanent touring singers with the Rolling Stones in 1989.
During her years with the group, she fitted in solo albums and Grand Baton tours when she could, including a Grammy winning RnB single, How Can I Ease The Pain in 1991, but eventually the benefits were gradually outnumbered by other factors.
The Rolling Stones needed her to be in each city on their tours a day prior to the show. Given the size and scope of a Stones show, this level of commitment is totally reasonable but, it didn’t leave Fischer much room for a career of her own.
She didn’t play her last show with the Stones until July 15, 2015, and has since focused almost exclusively on Grand Baton. Leaving the security of the world’s biggest touring was a tough and emotional decision for Fischer.
“They have been so supportive and loving and kind to me,” Fischer said back in 2015. “I miss them. I love them to the ends of the Earth.”
This brings us to Grand Baton, the group Fischer has been on the road with ever since. Each night, the band attempts to fuse African, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean rhythms, psychedelic soul and progressive rock together behind her voice. They re-invent songs by Led Zeppelin, Amy Grant, Little Willie John, and The Rolling Stones as well as Fischer’s originals.
“We’ll be weaving and connecting with the audience through my favourite songs,” says Fischer.
When it comes to winning over a crowd, she doesn’t have to scream and preen like Robert Plant when she sings Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song and she has no need cluck and dance like Mick Jagger when leading the Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. With a voice that can fill stadiums at the drop of a hat, Fischer has room to be herself.
“We’ve been on a truly wonderful series of tour dates,” explains Fischer’s manager Linda Goldstein when asked about the current tour. “We’ve seen the liveliest crowds.”
Fischer’s vocal range and technical ability is so well regarded with in the industry that is nearly legendary, but her greatest gift is the ability to reach the hearts of her listeners. Whether with her own band or singing with other artists, Lisa’s passion for music and connection are what she brings to every audience and every show.
Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton perform at the Living Arts Centre on April 28 at 7:30 pm.
Tickets are available by calling 905.306.6000 or online here.