Chess Records recording artist Fontella Bass died last night at a St. Louis hospital, three weeks after suffering a heart attack. The St. Louis native, best known for her 1965 hit “Rescue Me,” was 72.
The daughter of gospel singer Martha Bass began touring with her mother at the age of 16 but found herself drawn more to secular R&B. While her earliest tracks, produced by Ike Turner, got little airplay outside of St. Louis, she signed to Chess Records in the mid ‘60s.
Her only album for Chess, 1966’s The New Look, included the Top 5 R&B song “Rescue Me.” She had a few charting singles, but disputes with the label over her songwriting credits and royalty rates gave her the “reputation of being a trouble maker,” she once said. She and husband, noted jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie, moved to Paris, where they continued to make music. Her final album Travelin’ came in 2001 after a PBS special revived interest in her legacy.