Fontella Bass was a prodigy.
Her mother and grandmother were both gospel singers, and by age 6 Bass had joined them in playing piano at services throughout her home state of Missouri. By age 9 she was touring throughout the deep South with her mother, singing at church services.
By the age of 16, Bass was beginning to move away from gospel singing and into more mainstream pop music, beginning by singing at R’n’B contests, the first one on a dare. From there she became a star in her hometown but saw little success outside of St. Louis. Her early work was produced by Ike Turner.
Bass left St. Louis in 1963 to try to make it in Chicago. She auditioned for Chess Records and signed up to the label soon after. By 1965 she had released her first single Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing which was a huge hit across R’n’B radio. In 1979 the song was covered by Ry Cooder and Chaka-Khan.
Undoubtedly the song that Bass is most famous for, the 1965 mega-hit Rescue Me topped the R’n’B charts for months and reached No.4 in the Billboard charts. It was written by Bass, along with Raynard Miner and Carl William Smith.
Often miscredited to Aretha Franklin, the song was actually released three years before Franklin made her mainstream debut in 1968.
The song was covered by many stars from Linda Ronstadt in 1971, Cher in 1974, and Pat Benatar in 1994. Benatar’s version was used on the soundtrack to the movie Speed.
(courtesy of www.heavy.com)