Posted by themusicsover on December 26, 2012
July 3, 1940 – December 26, 2012
Fontella Bass was a beloved R&B singer who is best remembered for her hugely popular hit of 1965, “Rescue Me.” Born into a music family – her mother was Martha Bass of the Clara Ward Singers – Bass began playing piano and singing in the church choir at a very young age. By the time she was nine, she was accompanying her mother on tours of the U.S. As a teenager, Bass began earning her living by singing in local clubs and such. Having grown up on St. Louis, Bass cut a several early records there, with some being produced by Ike Turner, She soon headed north the Chicago. Upon arriving there, Bass was quickly signed to Chess Records, and almost immediately began scoring hits with songs like “Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing” and “You’ll Miss Me (When I’m Gone).” In 1965, she recorded, in just three takes mind you, “Rescue Me,” a song she co-wrote. Minnie Riperton provided the background vocals. The record hit #1 on the R&B charts, #4 on the Pop charts, and #11 on the UK charts. It can be heard in commercials, on TV shows and in films to this day. Disillusioned by the music industry and royalty disputes over “Rescue Me,” Bass and her husband, jazz great Lester Bowie, moved to Paris in 1969. She more or less retired, but could be heard on her husband’s records as well as others’ from time to time. On New Year’s Day of 1990, to Bass’ amazement, she heard her own voice singing “Rescue Me” in an American Express commercial. She ultimately won a settlement against the company for unauthorized usage. In later years, her career experienced a revival thanks to younger generations discovering her music. In 2005, Bass suffered her first of a series of strokes, and in December of 2012, she suffered a heart attack. Fontella Bass was 72 when, on December 26, 2012, she died of complications from that heart attack.
Thanks to Harold Lepidus of Bob Dylan Examiner for the assist.