American soul singer Fontella Bass, who topped the R&B chart in 1965 with the song “Rescue Me,” died in St. Louis. She was 72.
Bass died in hospice care on Wednesday night from complications of a heart attack she suffered three weeks ago, her daughter, Neuka Mitchell, told Reuters. Bass had also suffered from strokes in recent years.
“She’s going to be missed,” Mitchell said. “Her big personality. Her love for family. Her big, giving heart and her cooking.”
She was known as the “queen of soul food” to her family, Mitchell said.
Bass was born into a singing family in St. Louis. Her mother, Martha Bass, was a singer in the Clara Ward Singers gospel group. Her brother, the late R&B singer David Peaston, scored a handful of hits in the 1980s and 1990s.
Bass first achieved success dueting with Bobby McClure in 1965 on songs such as “Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing” and “You’ll Miss Me (When I’m Gone),” both of which were hits on the pop and R&B charts.
Bass’ biggest hit came with “Rescue Me,” which shot up the Billboard pop charts in the fall of 1965, becoming one of the most popular soul hits of all time.
“It held a special place in her heart,” Mitchell said of the song. “She sang it every time she performed.”
The song has been covered and sampled numerous times over the years, including by pop stars Linda Ronstadt and Cher, and more recently in 2000 by UK group Nu Generation, who remixed the song into a dance track.
Nu Generation’s remix, “In Your Arms (Rescue Me)” hit the top 10 of the UK singles chart.
Bass had moderate success in later years with a gospel album in the 1990s, but was unable to emulate the popularity set by “Rescue Me.”
She was married to jazz trumpeter and composer Lester Bowie. The two spent time living in Europe in the late 1960s and early 1970s before moving back to the United States.
Funeral arrangements for Bass have not been finalized. The singer is survived by her four children. (Reporting by Eric Kelsey and Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Doina Chiacu)