ST. LOUIS – Fontella Bass, a soul singer who hit the top of the R&B charts with “Rescue Me” in 1965 has died, her family confirmed Thursday.
Bass was 72. She died at a St. Louis hospice of complications from a heart attack suffered three weeks ago, reported the AP.
“She was an outgoing person,” Bass’ daughter Neuka Mitchell said. “She had a very big personality. Any room she entered just lit the room up.”
Bass’ family had deep musical roots. Her mother was a gospel singer and her younger brother had a string of R&B hits in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Bass started performing at age 6 singing in her church’s choir. She began her professional career at the Showboat club in St. Louis at 17.
She co-wrote and then recorded “Rescue Me” in 1965. The song reached No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 4 on the Billboard pop singles chart.
She had a powerful voice that often lead listeners to confuse her with Aretha Franklin.
Bass had a few other modest hits in following years. She haggled over royalty rights to “Rescue Me” and even sued American Express, who used the song in an advertisement, settling for an undisclosed amount in 1993.
Bass was inducted into the St. Louis Hall of Fame in 2000.