Soul singer Fontella Bass has died at the age of 72.
Bass, who topped the R&B charts with her song “Rescue Me” in 1965, passed away on Wednesday night at a St. Louis hospice of complications from a heart attack she suffered three weeks ago.
Fontella’s daughter, Neuka Mitchell, said her mother had also suffered from several strokes over the past seven years.
Mitchell said of her mother, “She was an outgoing person. She had a very big personality. Any room she entered she just lit the room up, whether she was on stage or just going out to eat.”
Bass was born into a musical family. Her mother was gospel singer Martha Bass, one of the Clara Ward Singers. Her younger brother, David Peaston, had a string of R&B hits in the 1980s and 1990s.
Fontella started performing at a young age, singing in her church’s choir at the age of six-years-old.
She shifted her focus from gospel music to R&B when she was a teenager and began her singing career at the Showboat Club in north St. Louis at age 17.
She landed a recording contract with Chess Records first as a duet artist. Her duet with Bobby McClure, “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing”, reached No. 5 on the R&B charts and No. 33 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1965.
Fontella Bass co-wrote and later recorded the song “Rescue Me”, that hit No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 4 on the Billboard pop singles chart. Her strong voice was compared to that of Aretha Franklin.
Her hit song “Rescue Me” has been covered by many top artists, including Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Melissa Manchester and Pat Benatar.
Bass was inducted into the St. Louis Hall of Fame in 2000. She is survived by four children.
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