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Fontella Bass: “Rescue Me” and “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing”

Fontella Bass, July 3, 1940-Dec. 26, 2012

Here is the beginning of an appreciation of the R&B singer Fontella Bass from Los Angeles Times’ Pop Critic Randall Roberts:

Any appreciation of soul singer Fontella Bass, who died Wednesday at age 72, must first acknowledge “Rescue Me,” the propellant 1965 R&B banger that became her signature. But equally vital in her — and the American — pantheon is “Theme de Yoyo,” her rousing vocal turn during the free jazz collective Art Ensemble of Chicago’s 1970 album “Les Stances a Sophie.” Continue Reading (an apparently reedited version of the story)… 

Here is a link to Theme de Yoyo.

The Telegraph has an interesting obit which lays out Bass’ career and makes the point that she and Bobby McClure (with which she sings Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing, below) were teamed on more than one song by Chess Records. The obit also says that her big hit — Rescue Me, above — was recorded after Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing Here is the part of the piece that discusses Rescue Me, and the unfortunate aftermath, which unfortunately is not uncommon:

Tom Jones, Cher and Aretha Franklin, among many others, have made their own recordings of the hit. But its success did not always profit Fontella Bass. She once claimed that when her record label, Chess, presented her with a royalties cheque for Rescue Me, the sum was so insignificant that she tore it up. In 1990, living in near-poverty, she heard the song on an American Express advertisement. Forced to sue for its unauthorised use and a share of the songwriting royalties, she eventually won the day in court. Continue Reading…

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