Fontella Bass

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Fontella Bass
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Fontella Bass in 1965
Background information
Birth nameFontella Marie Bass
Born(1940-07-03)July 3, 1940
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedDecember 26, 2012(2012-12-26) (aged 72)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Genres Soul, R&B, pop
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Instruments
Years active1961–2012
LabelsBobbin Records
Chess Records
Associated acts David Peaston, Mary Wells, Dionne Warwick, The Supremes, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Lester Bowie

Fontella Marie Bass (July 3, 1940 – December 26, 2012) [1] was an American R&B and soul singer and songwriter best known for her 1965 hit, "Rescue Me."

Rhythm and blues, commonly abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy, as well as triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, economics, and aspirations.

Soul music is a popular music genre that originated in the African American community in the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues and jazz. Soul music became popular for dancing and listening in the United States, where record labels such as Motown, Atlantic and Stax were influential during the Civil Rights Movement. Soul also became popular around the world, directly influencing rock music and the music of Africa.

Rescue Me (Fontella Bass song) 1965 single by Fontella Bass

"Rescue Me" is a rhythm and blues song first recorded and released as a single by Fontella Bass in 1965. The original versions of the record, and BMI, give the songwriting credit to Raynard Miner and Carl William Smith, although many other sources also credit Bass herself as a co-writer. It would prove the biggest hit of Bass's career, reaching #1 on the R&B charts for four weeks and placing at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Rescue Me" also peaked at number eleven on the UK Singles Chart.

Contents

Early life

Fontella Bass was born in St. Louis, Missouri. She was the daughter of gospel singer Martha Bass, who was a member of the Clara Ward Singers, and the older sister of R&B singer David Peaston. [2] [3] At an early age, Fontella showed great musical talent. At the age of five, she provided the piano accompaniment for her grandmother's singing at funeral services, she sang in her church's choir at six, and by the time she was nine, she had accompanied her mother on tours throughout the South and Southwest America. [4]

Missouri State of the United States of America

Missouri is a state in the Midwestern United States. With over six million residents, it is the 18th-most populous state of the Union. The largest urban areas are St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia; the capital is Jefferson City. The state is the 21st-most extensive in area. In the South are the Ozarks, a forested highland, providing timber, minerals, and recreation. The Missouri River, after which the state is named, flows through the center of the state into the Mississippi River, which makes up Missouri's eastern border.

Gospel music is a genre of Christian music. The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of gospel music varies according to culture and social context. Gospel music is composed and performed for many purposes, including aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, and as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Gospel music usually has dominant vocals with Christian lyrics. Gospel music can be traced to the early 17th century, with roots in the black oral tradition. Hymns and sacred songs were often repeated in a call and response fashion. Most of the churches relied on hand clapping and foot stomping as rhythmic accompaniment. Most of the singing was done a cappella. The first published use of the term "gospel song" probably appeared in 1874. The original gospel songs were written and composed by authors such as George F. Root, Philip Bliss, Charles H. Gabriel, William Howard Doane, and Fanny Crosby. Gospel music publishing houses emerged. The advent of radio in the 1920s greatly increased the audience for gospel music. Following World War II, gospel music moved into major auditoriums, and gospel music concerts became quite elaborate.

Martha Bass was an American gospel singer.

Bass continued touring with her mother until age of sixteen. As a teenager, Bass was attracted by more secular music. She began singing R&B songs at local contests and fairs while attending Soldan High School from which she graduated in 1958. [5] At 17, she started her professional career working at the Showboat Club near Chain of Rocks, Missouri. In 1961, she auditioned on a dare for the Leon Claxton carnival show and was hired to play piano and sing in the chorus for two weeks, making $175 per week for the two weeks it was in town. She wanted to go on tour with Claxton but her mother refused and according to Bass "... she literally dragged me off the train". It was during this brief stint with Claxton that she was heard by vocalist Little Milton and his bandleader Oliver Sain who hired her to back Little Milton on piano for concerts and recording. [4]

Soldan International Studies High School

Soldan International Studies High School is a public magnet high school in the Academy neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri that is part of the St. Louis Public Schools. From its opening in 1909, Soldan was known for its wealthy and predominantly Jewish student population. Starting in the 1950s, the student population underwent a rapid change in demographics; by the mid-1960s, it was predominantly African American. In the early 1990s, the school was renovated and reopened as a magnet school with a focus on international relations.

Chain of Rocks, Missouri Village in Missouri, United States

Chain of Rocks is a village in Lincoln County, Missouri, United States. The population was 93 at the 2010 census.

Little Milton American singer and guitarist

James Milton Campbell Jr., better known as Little Milton, was an American blues singer and guitarist, best known for his hit records "Grits Ain't Groceries," "Walking the Back Streets and Crying," and "We're Gonna Make It."

Bass originally only played piano with the band, but one night Milton didn't show up on time so Sain asked her to sing and she was soon given her own featured vocal spot in the show. Milton and Sain eventually split up and Bass went with Sain; he also recruited male singer Bobby McClure and the group became known as "The Oliver Sain Soul Revue featuring Fontella and Bobby McClure".

Bobby McClure was an American soul singer.

With the support of Bob Lyons, the manager of St. Louis station KATZ, Bass recorded several songs released through Bobbin Records and produced by Ike Turner. She saw no notable success outside her home town. It was also during this period she met and subsequently married the noted jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie. [4]

KATZ (AM) urban gospel radio station in St. Louis

KATZ is an Urban Gospel radio station serving the area of St. Louis, Missouri, United States. The iHeartMedia, Inc. outlet broadcasts with power level of 6 kW day/3.5 kW night. Its transmitter is located in East St. Louis, Illinois, and operates from studios in St. Louis south of Forest Park.

Ike Turner American musician

Izear Luster "Ike" Turner, Jr. was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, talent scout, and record producer. An early pioneer of fifties rock and roll, he is most popularly known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with his then-wife Tina Turner in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

Lester Bowie American jazz trumpeter

Lester Bowie was an American jazz trumpet player and composer. He was a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and co-founded the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Recording career

Two years later she quit the Milton band and moved to Chicago after a dispute with Oliver Sain. She auditioned for Chess Records, who immediately signed her as a recording artist. Her first works with the label were several duets with Bobby McClure, who had also been signed to the label. Released early in 1965, their recording "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing" (credited to Oliver Sain) found immediate success, reaching the top five at R&B radio and peaking at #33 at pop. In 1979 the song was covered by Ry Cooder with Chaka Khan on Cooder's album Bop 'Til You Drop .

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as "Chicagoland", and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, and the fourth largest in North America and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.

Chess Records American record company, founded in 1950 in Chicago

Chess Records was an American record company, founded in 1950 in Chicago and specializing in blues and rhythm and blues. Over time it expanded into soul music, gospel music, early rock and roll, and occasional jazz and comedy recordings, released on the Chess label and on its subsidiary labels Checker, Argo/Cadet and Cadet Concept. The entire Chess catalogue is currently owned by Universal Music Group and managed by Geffen Records.

Ry Cooder American musician

Ryland Peter "Ry" Cooder is an American musician, songwriter, film score composer, and record producer. He is a multi-instrumentalist but is best known for his slide guitar work, his interest in roots music from the United States, and his collaborations with traditional musicians from many countries.

Bass and McClure followed their early success with "You'll Miss Me (When I'm Gone)" that summer, a song that had mild success, reaching the Top 30 on the R&B chart, although it made no significant impression on the pop chart. After a brief tour, Bass returned to the studio. The result was an original composition with an aggressive rhythm section; backing musicians on the track included drummer Maurice White (later the leader of Earth, Wind, & Fire), bassist Louis Satterfield and tenor saxophonist Gene Barge, with the young Minnie Riperton among the background singers. The song, "Rescue Me", shot up the charts in the fall and winter of 1965. After a month-long run at the top of the R&B charts, the song reached #4 on the US pop charts and #11 in the UK, and gave Chess its first million-selling single since Chuck Berry a decade earlier. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. [6]

Bass followed with "Recovery," which did moderately well, peaking at #13 (R&B) and #37 (pop) in early 1966. The same year brought two more R&B hits, "I Can't Rest" (backed with "I Surrender)" and "You'll Never Know." Her only album with Chess Records, The New Look, sold reasonably well, but Bass soon became disillusioned with Chess and decided to leave the label after only two years, in 1967. Bass claimed that, although the credited co-writers Carl Smith and Raynard Miner, and record producer Billy Davis, had assured her that her contribution to co-writing the lyrics of "Rescue Me" would be acknowledged, this was never done. [7]

I had the first million seller for Chess since Chuck Berry about 10 years before. Things were riding high for them, but when it came time to collect my first royalty check, I looked at it, saw how little it was, tore it up and threw it back across the desk. [4]

Bass demanded a better royalty rate and artistic control; she approached her then manager Billy Davis about securing her writing credit on the song but was told not to worry about it. When the record came out and her name was still not on it she was told it would be on the legal documents, but this never happened. She continued to agitate about the matter for a couple of years but later recalled: "It actually side-stepped me in the business because I got a reputation of being a trouble maker." [4]

Tiring of the mainstream music scene, she and husband Lester Bowie left America and moved to Paris in 1969, where she recorded two albums with the Art Ensemble of Chicago Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass and Les Stances a Sophie (both 1970). The latter was the soundtrack from the French movie of the same title. Bass's vocals, backed by the powerful, pulsating push of the band, have allowed the "Theme De YoYo" to remain an underground cult classic ever since.[ citation needed ] She also appeared on Bowie's The Great Pretender (1981) and All the Magic (1982).

Even with the success of "Rescue Me" it was many years and much litigation before Bass would be credited with her share of the songwriting and the royalties. In 1993 Bass sued American Express and Ogilvy & Mather for the unauthorized use of the song in a commercial for the credit card giant. [4]

Later career and death

The next few years found Bass at a number of labels, but saw no notable successes. After her second album, Free, flopped in 1972, Bass retired from music and concentrated on raising a family; she had four children with Bowie. [4] She returned occasionally, being featured as a background vocalist on several recordings, including those by Bowie. In 1990, she recorded a gospel album with her mother and brother David Peaston, called Promises: A Family Portrait of Faith and undertook a fall tour of the US West Coast, called "Juke Joints and Jubilee", which featured both traditional gospel and blues performers. During the 1990s, she hosted a short-lived Chicago radio talk show, and released several gospel records on independent labels. In 1992, through her old friend Hamiet Bluiett, she was invited to perform three tracks on the World Saxophone Quartet album Breath of Life .

The original version of "Rescue Me" was used in a TV advertising campaign by American Express. Fontella Bass has stated that she was at a low point in her life when on New Year's Day 1990 she was astonished to hear her own voice singing "Rescue Me" on the American Express television ad. The experience gave Bass the inspiration to set her life in order: it also motivated her to make queries over the commercial use of her recording of "Rescue Me" with the ultimate result a 1993 settlement with American Express and its advertising agency awarding Bass $50,000 plus punitive damages. [8]

Like many artists of her time, Bass experienced a revival of interest. She was featured on the PBS Special and accompanying DVD, Soul Celebration. Soul Spectacular recorded live at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 2001. Her voice can be heard on two tracks on the Cinematic Orchestra's 2002 album Every Day , and another two tracks on their 2007 album Ma Fleur .

During May 2000 Bass received a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. [9]

In the 2000s, she toured Europe with her younger brother David Peaston until she fell ill. For her last years she had to struggle due to her deteriorating health. Bass survived breast cancer, a series of strokes beginning in 2005, and also had a leg amputated. [10] On December 26, 2012, she died at a St. Louis hospital from complications of a heart attack suffered earlier in the month; she was 72. [3] [11] [12]

Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Bass has received two Grammy nominations. [13]

YearCategoryNominated workResult
1965 Best Contemporary Vocal Performance Female "Rescue Me"Nominated
1995 Best Traditional Soul Gospel Performance No Ways TiredNominated

Discography

Albums

YearAlbum
1966 The New Look
1970 Les Stances a Sophie with the Art Ensemble of Chicago
1972Free
1980From the Root to the Source
1992Rescued: The Best of Fontella Bass
1995No Ways Tired
1996Now That I Found a Good Thing
2001Travelin'

Singles

YearSingle US R&B Singles [14] US Pop Singles [15] UK Singles [16] Album
1965"Don't Mess Up a Good Thing"
with Bobby McClure
533--
"You'll Miss Me (When I'm Gone)"
with Bobby McClure
2791-
"Rescue Me"1411The New Look
1966"Recovery"133732Rescued: The Best of Fontella Bass
"I Can't Rest" /
"I Surrender"
31
33
-
78
-
-
"You'll Never Ever Know" /
"Safe and Sound"
34
-
-
100
-
-
1967"Lucky In Love"/"Sweet Lovin' Daddy"---The Very Best of Fontella Bass

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References

  1. Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 141. ISBN   978-0313344237.
  2. "Review/Music; The Bass Clan Does Its Individual Things". nytimes.com.
  3. 1 2 "Fontella Bass dead at 72". KSDK.com. Archived from the original on 27 January 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Sorry, We Can't Find That Page - Search MSU". Msu.edu. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  5. Sorkin, Michael D., and Kevin Johnson, "Fontella Bass dies; singer of 'Rescue Me' was a hit in US and a bigger hit in Europe", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Friday, December 28, 2012.
  6. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 186. ISBN   0-214-20512-6.
  7. Pierre Perrone (28 December 2012). "Fontella Bass: Singer famed for her powerful interpretation of the million-seller 'Rescue Me'". The Independent. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  8. "'My Song Rescued Me'". The Tuscaloosa News. November 25, 1995.
  9. "Fontella Bass". stlouiswalkoffame.org.
  10. Kevin C. Johnson, "R&B and gospel singer David Peaston dies", St Louis Post-Dispatch, February 3, 2012.
  11. "Fontella Bass Obituary". Legacy.com. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  12. "Fontella Bass, 72, Singer of 'Rescue Me,' Is Dead". The New York Times . 28 December 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  13. "Fontella Bass". Grammy.com.
  14. "Fontella Bass (Hot Soul Songs)". billboard.com.
  15. "Fontella Bass (Hot 100)". billboard.com.
  16. "Fontella Bass". officialcharts.com.