Fontella Bass, R&B Singer Behind "Rescue Me," Dead at 72

Sixties music star passes away in her hometown of St. Louis due to complications from a heart attack

By Josh Grossberg Dec 27, 2012 6:32 PMTags

Fontella Bass, the soul and gospel singer best known for her indelible 1965 R&B hit "Rescue Me," has died in St. Louis at the age of 72.

Bass' daughter Neuka Michell told local Fox affiliate KTVI that her mother passed away Wednesday night in her hometown due to complications from a heart attack she suffered on Dec. 2.

The daughter of gospel singer Martha Bass, the burgeoning songbird grew up in St. Louis playing piano and singing in her church choir while tagging along with her mother on various gospel tours.

She soon became a crooner in her own right, fronting several local bands before heading to Chicago, where she landed a contract with Chess Records. Teaming up with Bobby McClure, the pair scored their first hits with two early 1965 duets, "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing" and "You'll Miss Me (When I'm Gone)."

But it was later that fall when Bass made her mark as a solo artist, cowriting "Rescue Me," a stirring ditty that soared to the top of Billboard's Hot 100 R&B chart and remained there for four straight weeks.

The song peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard pop charts, sold over a million copies and was covered by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt, Cher and Pat Benatar, among others. It also made notable appearances in such '90s films as Sister Act and In the Army Now.

After scoring a couple of other R&B hits, among them "Recovery," Bass left Chess Records after only one album and moved to Paris.

There, she recorded with various labels, mostly gospel music, and guested on albums by other artists such as Cinematic Orchestra. In 1995, her gospel CD No Ways Tired was also nominated for a Grammy.

In her later years, Bass continued to tour as well. Her remarkable career subsequently earned her an induction into the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2000.