Soul singer Fontella Bass, who topped the charts in 1965 with her feel-good hit song “Rescue Me,” has died at age 72. According to her daughter, Neuka Mitchell, the St. Louis, Mo., native died in a hospice on Dec. 26 as a result of complications from a heart attack three weeks ago.
Bass was considered “an outgoing person” by her daughter. “She had a very big personality,” Mitchell told the Associated Press. “Any room she entered, she just lit the room up, whether she was onstage or just going out to eat.”
Bass began performing at a young age, singing in her church’s choir at age 6. She was surrounded by music, often traveling on national tours with her mother and her gospel group.
Her interest turned from gospel to R&B when she was a teenager and she began her professional career at the Showboat Club in north St. Louis at age 17. She eventually auditioned for Chess Records and landed a recording contract, 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.
She co-wrote and later that year recorded “Rescue Me,” reaching No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 4 on the Billboard pop singles chart. Bass’s powerful voice bore a striking resemblance to that of Aretha Franklin, who is often misidentified as the singer of that chart-topping hit.