When news spread that soul singer Fontella Bass had died, many couldn’t place the name to a face or anything else. Most knew the singer’s trademark hit “Rescue Me.” However, Bass’ story goes way beyond that one smash hit. With her recent passing, we decided to give you a few more details about the powerful singer with the distinctive voice.
Check out five things you didn’t know about Miss Fontella Bass.
1. She Hired Minnie Riperton sang Background On “Rescue Me”
Everyone remembers the iconic cover to Minnie Riperton‘s Perfect Angel where she had on the overalls and vanilla ice cream cone. Besides the cover, Minnie became famous for her pitch perfect high note on “Loving You.” People don’t know they need to thank Fontella Bass forgiving a young Minnie Riperton one of her first background singing jobs. Had there been no “Rescue Me,” “Lovin You” wouldn’t have been made a hit.
2. Bass Was Labeled A Troublemaker When She Fought Chess Records For Her Royalties
Artists fighting to receive proper songwriting credit and subsequent royalties is nothing new to a music fan. But things were very different back in the sixties for artists, especially Fontella. She co-wrote “Rescue Me” and was never credited. When she began to raise hell at Chess Records, they ignored her and went on about their business. When Bass continued to inquire about her money, she got a reputation as a troublemaker and job offerings dwindled. Bass and a host of other artists are the reason there are laws in place to defend the artists’ rights.
3. She Found Love At Work
Many musicians wind up dating each other because they are always in close proximity. The same can be said for Fontella Bass. She met and married noted trumpeter Lester Bowie. After they were married, Lester Bowie took over as Bass’ bandleader and musical director. The marriage lasted quite a while, but did end in divorce. When Fontella Bass’ solo career began to lose steam, she would occasionally guest on Bowie’s records. Bass and Bowie remained friends until his death in 1999.
4. She Is The Daughter Of Gospel Singer Martha Bass
Fontella Bass was born with the music and spirit. Bass’ mother is Martha Bass who was a member of the legendary traditional gospel group The Clara Ward Singers. Fontella began her professional singing career by going on tour with her mother when she was nine. Fontella was allowed to accompany her mother when they toured the deep south and south west. She had to have been a strong young lady because riding around the deep south as a child and dealing with that kind of racism is only for the those with cast iron feelings.
5. Bass Gave Chess Records It’s First Million Selling Record In Ten Years
Chess Records had a string of hits in its early days because of artists like Etta James, Howlin’ Wolf, and Chuck Berry. However, Chess went through a rough patch where nothing they put out was a hit. Then, Fontella Bass and a few musicians concocted “Rescue Me.” Not only did the song make Bass’ career, it was also the first record Chess records released that sold a million copies since Chuck Berry had done it ten years earlier.
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