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Fontella Bass

The 1965 classic "Rescue Me" is widely regarded as the greatest record Aretha Franklin never made. The song in question was instead cut by singer Fontella Bass, who like Franklin channeled the power and passion of her gospel roots to create some of the finest music of soul's golden age. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 3, 1940, Bass was the daughter of gospel vocalist Martha Bass, a longtime member of the renowned Clara Ward Singers. Her grandmother Navada Carter was also a professional gospel performer, and it was inevitable that Fontella follow suit, making her church choir debut at age five. Nevertheless, during the mid-'50s she rebelled against tradition, sneaking out of the house to sing secular R&B at local fairs and nightclubs. By 16, Bass was the house pianist at the St. Louis nightspot the Showbar, and in 1961 she joined local blues great Little Milton Campbell, later marrying the band's trumpeter, fledgling jazz titan Lester Bowie. Bass first earned notice for her vocal on Little Milton's 1962 hit "So Mean to Me," soon followed by her Bobbin label solo debut, "I Don't Hurt Anymore." But when Campbell and his pianist Oliver Sain parted ways, Bass exited along with Sain, who named her lead vocalist of his Oliver Sain Soul Revue. Her second single, the Ike Turner-produced "I Love the Man," followed on Turner's Prann label in 1963. Bass then cut "Poor Little Fool," a duet with Tina Turner issued on the Vesuvius imprint. And when she wasn't performing with Sain and his group, she moonlighted as a solo act, playing gigs across East St. Louis under the alias "Sabrina."

After the 1964 release of the Oliver Sain Soul Revue's debut effort, "Heavy Sugar," the pianist escorted Bass and singer Bobby McClure to Chicago, where he produced their duet, "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing," for Chess Records' Checker imprint. The single proved a Top Ten hit, and even after Bass left the group to mount a solo career, Sain remained a close collaborator. She relocated to Chicago in 1965 and late that same year scored the biggest hit of her career with her solo debut, "Rescue Me." A buoyant dance classic made memorable by Bass' impassioned, gritty vocal as well as the percolating bass of Chess session mainstay Louis Satterfield and Gene Barge's dynamic horn arrangement, the single topped the R&B charts for a month and crossed over to the pop Top Five. One of the biggest-selling records in Chess' storied history, "Rescue Me" remains an unqualified classic of the era and is a staple of oldies radio to this day, although many listeners now mistake the record as the work of Aretha Franklin, who ironically enough did not even enter the popular consciousness until two years later. Worse, Bass never received proper credit or financial remuneration for co-writing the song, and her subsequent battles with Chess execs earned her a reputation as a malcontent. The "Rescue Me" sound-alike "Recovery" followed in early 1966, reaching the R&B Top 20, but Bass' run as a hitmaker proved frustratingly short, and after scoring a minor hit late that same year with "Sweet Lovin' Daddy," she never returned to the U.S. charts again.

With her career mired in neutral, Bass exited Checker in 1969 and with husband Bowie -- now a renowned avant-garde player best known for his work with the Art Ensemble of Chicago -- relocated to Paris. There she collaborated with the group on an LP, the acclaimed The Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass, but otherwise focused on raising a family until returning to St. Louis in 1971, renewing ties with Oliver Sain and signing to the Shreveport, Louisiana-based Paula label. The superb single "Who You Gonna Blame" anticipated the 1972 release of the Sain-produced Free, a remarkably soulful set that is by far the most memorable LP of Bass' career. Attention from radio and retail was negligible, however, and after subsequent singles including "Now That I've Found a Good Thing" and "It's Hard to Get Back In" flopped, she exited Paula in 1974, not resurfacing until three years later with the Epic single "Soon as I Touched Him." Apart from occasional guest appearances with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, she spent the remainder of the 1970s and most of the 1980s as a homemaker, confining her musical pursuits to her Baptist church choir, but in 1990 she teamed with her mother and brother David Peaston for a gospel LP, Promises: A Family Portrait of Faith. Bass continued her return to spiritual music with the 1995 Nonesuch release No Ways Tired, touring Europe regularly in the years leading up to the 2001 appearance of her follow-up outing, Travellin', a collaboration with the Voices of St. Louis gospel choir issued on the Canadian indie Justin Time. In subsequent years Bass suffered a series of strokes, followed by a heart attack in early December 2012 -- she died in a St. Louis hospice on December 26, 2012 at the age of 72. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Very Best Of Fontella Bass

1. Our Day Will Come

2. How Glad I Am

3. Oh, No, Not My Baby

4. Rescue Me

5. Gee Whiz

6. I'm A Woman

7. Since I Fell For You

8. Impossible

9. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'

10. The Soul Of A Man

11. Come And Get These Memories

12. I Know

13. Recovery

14. Leave It In The Hands Of Love

15. I Surrender

16. I Can't Rest

17. Safe And Sound

18. You'll Never Know

19. Lucky In Love

20. Sweet Lovin' Daddy

21. Free At Last

22. Joy Of Love

23. Don't Mess Up A Good Thing

24. Baby What You Want Me To Do

25. You're Gonna Miss Me

x

Track List: Travellin'

1. Mandela

2. Travellin'

3. It's Alright Now

4. Special Lady

5. Walk With Me

6. Waiting

7. Round And Round

8. DB Blues

9. In The Garden

10. Thank You Lord

x

Track List: Free (The Paula Recordings)

1. To Be Free

2. Hold On This Time

3. I Want Everyone To Know

4. I Need To Be Loved

5. Talking About Freedom

6. I Need Love

7. Wiping Tears

8. Now That I've Found A Good Thing

9. Who You Gonna Blame

10. It Sure Is Good

11. I'm Leaving The Choice To You

12. Home Wrecker

13. It's Hard To Get Back In

14. My God, My Freedom, My Home

Comments

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My mom said I used to sing this around the house when I was a toddler! I always think of that scene in Jumping Jack Flash with Whoopi Goldberg! LOL! RIP Fontella Bass.
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I love this song
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You shall never be alone again!...... . t h i s is recorded in the LAMBS'BOOK OF LIFE all ye devoters paying respect to a MEMORY of one of the GREATEST CHRISTIAN SOLDEIRS!
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I need you rescue me baby take me love me and be my man Mike mimi
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analisa416
It's funny because i don't think she sounds like Aretha and always heard them give her name on the radio when this was played back in the day.
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SING SISTER!!!!ON E OF MY FAVORITES!!! ! ! !
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mjthompson0
Now that I know, I can tell that the voice isn't Aretha Franklin. But forever, I just assumed that Rescue Me was an Aretha Franklin recording.
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Fontella bass, left us long time ago but she still has a lot of memories because of the way she had died, will still have the recording that she did god bless you and i miss you.
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Fontella Bass could sing to me forever
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Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you have started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works
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I keep leaving comments on this page because I love pandora music and i like the way they do every song plus i love all their music they play, i love pandora.
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I love you fontella bass and I will miss you every day, that year of 1965 I will never forget because it brings me lots memory of you, god bless you dear,fontell a bass.
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What a voice!
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Now, this song takes me back to my memories of channeling Great gospel songstresses as a teenager, as I sang Songs of Old'. Just like this one.
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I love you, fontella bass and I will miss you every day, singing like you did don't come every day, i always will miss you, god bless you.
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robertdavidd r i v e
.?
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It's so bad!!!!��
Hate it������
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The late fontella bass is being remember by a lot of people because of that record that she sings in 1965,god bless you.
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fontella never got the attn she deserved when she passed - i hope she gets recognized soon hell of a voice
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Her faith inspires me and her musical gift from God stirs my soul
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Hurting without you
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Save me baby
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rip fontella
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Miss fontella bass did the best record in 1965 what a great song she recorded in that year. I miss you very much.
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WOW LOVE THE SONG
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That was the jan back in da day
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I like this song 60,s in the ��
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I like fontella bass music
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❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤
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moteshita84
Am in love
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oldies but goodies love them
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RIP Fontella Bass! I used to listen to your mom sing gospel too. I always loved this song since I was a little girl. Minnie Riperton was one of the back up vocalist! They all sound awesome!
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Does anybody know how to download or listen to cry to me by betty Harris
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rip fontella i love you
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raulruiz0049
time of the season 4 making ♡♡♡♡ love like wow !
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I used to sing this song around the house when I was a little girl. LOL! RIP sister Fontella Bass.
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1965 Fort Lewes Washington and
Fontella Bass
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Mashed potatoes!!!
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Nice song
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I first heard this in a juke joint café by a coal heater. Folks were dancing hard. This is a dance through the floor song. Dr, P.
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Well, I feel dumb now. I always thought this was Aretha Franklin. Fontella Bass had an awesome voice.
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fields789
All this time I thought it was Aretha. I've never even heard of Fontella. That is so sad she never got the credit she so rightfully deserved. R.I.P.
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Come on over so blue
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aqilalim21 remind me of my college days , those were the days .
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"Free At Last " The-Rumble-I n - T h a - J u n g l e
H-Town~Rocki n ' ~ W e - A i n ' t - S t o p i n ' - T h a - M u s i c
Lovers-Rock- S t e a d y - S i t u a t i o n
LOVE+S Disciple*978 * 1 * ~ 9 m 1 4 y ~
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grant_smith9 1
Pretty sure Dario Marinelli did not write this song (it's credited to him at the end of the lyrics).
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I do not like you.
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sharon.guill o r y 5 5
Awesome vocalist.
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Classic
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Fontella don't hurt him,just a Fool
H-Town listening "Joy Of Love"*978*4m 1 4 y ~
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