Fontella Bass (July 3, 1940 - December 26, 2012) was a highly acclaimed R&B/soul singer and songwriter with powerful gospel vocals who became famous during the mid 1960s. She is best known for the imploring "Rescue Me" (1965), an oldies soul classic she co-wrote with Raynard Miner and Carl William Smith often described as
the greatest record Aretha Franklin never made.
Born Fontella Marie Bass in St. Louis, Missouri into a musical family, she began singing and playing the piano in church as a child and by age nine, was touring with her mother, gospel singer Martha Bass, who was a member of the highly respected Clara Ward Singers. She continued performing with her mother until her mid teens when she began to branch out into R&B and other more secular genres. By the early 1960s, she was singing professionally with Little Milton and other bands, and by 1965, had signed with Checker Records, a subsidiary of Chess.
Fontella Bass debuted in early 1965 with "Don't Mess Up A Good Thing," a duet with Bobby McClure that became a Top 5 hit on the R&B charts and made the Pop/Rock Top 40. Her fame took off later that year with the Grammy-nominated "Rescue Me" (1965), which topped the R&B charts, became a Top 5 Pop/Rock hit, and went gold. Her many hits, which continued through 1966 on both charts, also include "Recovery" (1965), "I Surrender" (1966), "I Can't Rest" (1966), "Safe And Sound" (1966), and "You'll Never Ever Know" (1966). Bass also had two other hits duets in 1965 with Bobby McClure: "You'll Miss Me (When I'm Gone)" and "Don't Jump."
Fontella Bass continued performing and recording actively through 1972 before taking an extended break to devote to her family. In later years, she toured on occasion and released several albums that include "Promises: A Family Portrait Of Faith" (1990), recorded with her mother and younger brother, R&B singer David Peaston, and the Grammy-nominated "No Ways Tired" (1995). Bass was honored in 2000 with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame and featured on the PBS special, "Soul Celebration. Soul Spectacular," recorded live at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2001. Her enigmatic surname is believed by many to be pronounced like the fish of the same name, not the musical instrument.
- The Guardian remembers Fontella Bass.
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- Rescue Me 1965
(This song later also became a hit for Melissa Manchester (1976).)
Fontella Bass And Bobby McClure
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