Fontella Bass, “Rescue Me” Singer, Dies

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Gospel and R&B powerhouse Fontella Bass died at age 72 Wednesday night.

Not everyone knows the name, but they know the tune “Rescue Me”.  Bass co-wrote and recorded the R&B anthem in 1965.  It was then covered by music royalty such as Aretha Franklin, Cher and Linda Ronstadt.

Bass, and her pipes, were born in St. Louis in 1940.  That effortless, yet belting, voice would take her on a 50-year ride around the world.  Dwight Bosman, of the jazz duo, The Bosman Twins was one of those lucky saxophone players to meet Bass. 

“She’d keep you laughing, in stitches.”

He was also one of the lucky few to learn from her.

“Those are the wrong changes,” Bosman imitated the irritated teacher.  “Those are the changes for gospel, and those are the changes for blues, and that kind of stuff.”

Bosman saw fans worship Bass around the world.  But, he said perhaps the highest honor came in 2000 with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame on Delmar Boulevard in University City, Missouri.

“Her brother, famed vocalist David Peaston, was here,” Bosman remembered.  “It’s always great to be celebrated at home.”

“Rescue me” sold over a million copies and shot to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 R&B Chart for four weeks.   Mike Hudson owns Hudson’s Cd’s and Tapes in North St. Louis City.  He was a 15-year-old working in his father’s store when the single dropped.  Hudson said with that song, Bass owned the summer of ’65 – a rare feat for a female soloist.

“Women were background singers.  Very few of them became stars,” he recalled.  “That let a lot of the young ladies in St. Louis — that were trying to become stars, who wanted to become stars — know that it’s possible.  It can happen, even in St. Louis, in the 60’s.”

News of the 72-year-old’s death spread.  Fans came back to Delmar to honor the star, again.

“She went from gospel to R&B back to gospel,” Hudson explained.  “So, it came full circle. And, I’m sure her family is very happy for that.”

Fontella Bass studied piano and vocals under her mother, international gospel star Martha Bass.  Fontella’s brother, the late David Peaston was also an R&B hit-maker.   Peaston’s cousin was one of our very own reporter she late John Gadson.

Note:  Michael Hudson is the father of reporter Kim Hudson.

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