Fontella Bass, a St. Louis-born R&B and Gospel singer who topped the charts in the mid-sixties with her hit “Rescue me,” died Wednesday night at the age of 72.
ABC reports Fontella, the daughter of gospel great Martha Bass, had suffered a series of health setbacks in recent years, but her passing was reportedly related to complications from a heart attack she suffered earlier in the month.
“She was an amazing person, she had a big personality,” Neuka Mitchell, a daughter of Bass, said Thursday morning.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1940, Bass grew up surrounded by music and got her start singing in a club at the age of 17. After scoring a recording contract with Chess Records in the early sixties, Bass sang along side Bobby McClure and the two produced several hits including “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing” and “You’ll Miss Me (When I’m Gone).”
Bass’ greatest success as an artist came in 1965, however, when she recorded the song “Rescue Me,” which reached No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 4 on the Billboard pop singles chart.
The hit song, which sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc, has since been covered by many top artists, including Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Melissa Manchester and Pat Benatar.
Later in life, when her children were grown, Bass relaunched her career as a gospel artist and received a Grammy nomination in 1995. KSDK notes Ms. Bass received a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in the Loop in May 2000.
Including her daughter, Bass is survived by four children. Her husband, jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie, died in 1999.
In memory of Fontella Bass’ life, listen to her hit 1965 track, “Rescue Me.”