Album: Donna Jean & The Tricksters (2007)
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Songfacts®:

  • Donna Jean & The Tricksters was fronted by Donna Jean Godchaux, who wrote "Shelter" with their guitarist, Jeff Mattson. The song was written in 2007 during the Iraq War, which informed the lyric.

    "At the time, there was something pretty heavy going on overseas, which really takes place in the lyrics of the song," Godchaux said on the Songfacts Podcast. "I just incorporated that feeling and that intensity of what was happening. It was real at the time and important at the time, which was why I wrote the song the way that I did.

    The song speaks to people's need to find peace within when there's so much chaos on the outside. You've got to find that place or you'll go under, and we can't do that and we're not going to do that. We're going to rise to this occasion and we're going to get through with flying colors, but it's going to be a haul and we've got to persevere."

    Godchaux is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Grateful Dead; she was a singer in the band from 1972-1979.
  • This was recorded at Cloud 9 Studio in Long Island, New York, and first appeared on the sampler First Songs in 2007. In 2008, it was included on the band's self-titled album.
  • Godchaux re-recorded this song Jeff Mattson in 2021 at NuttHouse Recording Studio in Sheffield, Alabama. She talked about this new version on the Songfacts Podcast: "The lyrics to 'Shelter' and the meaning of the song really translates perfectly with what's going on in America today, and as a matter of fact, in the world. We thought the combination of those two things is the prescription. Get the hard drive, get in the studio, and redo what you want to do and get this thing out because its time is now.

    When we did the background vocals, they were so strong and so pronounced and just took the song into another direction, so we needed to redo the rhythm section to pump it up, to meet where this was headed. My husband, David McKay, who is a really fine bass player, he replaced the bass and then Jimmy Nutt is also a drummer, so he replaced a bunch of the drum track.

    I wanted the rhythm section to be more tribal sounding and just pound it out and make it as forceful as what the lyrics were saying and indeed what we're going through. I think the combination of the vocals and re-doing the bass and the drums took it into that place that both Jeff and I wanted it to be, and we're thrilled at how it turned out."

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