'Rescue Me' Songstress Fontella Bass Dies of Heart Attack

Fontella Bass, the songstress behind the legendary hit “Rescue Me,” died Wednesday at the age of 72 after suffering from complications caused by a heart attack.

According to Bass’s family, she passed away in a St. Louis hospital where she was admitted after having a heart attack three weeks ago.

Ever since 2005 the soulful R&B crooner suffered a string of strokes, forcing her family to prepare for the worst.

She leaves behind four children. One of which, Neuka Mitchell, took the time to remember her mother’s outgoing spirit.

“She was an outgoing person,” she said of her mother. “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.”

With a big personality and deep roots in the music industry it was only a matter of time before she became a R&B legend.

Her mother, Martha Bass, was one of the Clara Ward Singers and beautifully belted out many gospel hits. Even her brother was a music superstar. David Peaston released several hits during his career from the 1980s to the 1990s before passing away at the age of 54.

Following in her family’s footsteps Fontella began singing at the age of 6 when she began a member of her church’s choir. She even got a taste of the music business as she traveled all around the world with her mother’s gospel group.

Although it seemed like Bass was going to be the next big gospel star, she followed her brother’s career path and ventured into the world of R&B instead.

When she was just a teenager she began performing at the Showboat Club in north St. Louis and eventually auditioned for Chess Records.

Suddenly the young starlet had a record deal as a duet artist, along side Bobby McClure, and their hit “Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing” soared to the top of the charts reaching No. 5 on the R&B charts in 1965.

It wasn’t until later that she co-wrote and then recorded “Rescue Me” which would be the tune to make her a music legend.

The song hit No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 4 on the Billboard pop singles chart.

Her powerful voice is often confused for that of Aretha Franklin, causing many music fans to believe Aretha was the crooner behind “Rescue Me.”

Although she wasn’t in the music scene much as she reached her later years, she was always recording music in her spare time and one of her gospel albums even received a Grammy nomination.

By the time the year 2000 hit, she had been inducted into the St. Louis Hall of Fame where her memory lives on.

Back to top