Fontella Bass performing at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's 12th annual Pioneer Awards at the legendary Apollo Theatre in New York City on November 8, 2001. (Photo by Gabe Palacio/ImageDirect)
By Mike Rush
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - You may not immediately recognize her name, but there's a good chance you can easily sing along with her signature tune.
Soul singer and St. Louisan Fontella Bass co-wrote and sang the huge hit "Rescue Me." She died Wednesday night of complications from a heart attack.
It was the song that put Fontella Bass on the map.
Nearly four decades after the release of "Rescue Me," in 2004, Bass told NewsChannel 5 what made that tune she co-wrote so relatable.
"It's the everyday living that I like about "Rescue Me" because everybody needs to be rescued. Everybody needs to be loved," she said at the time.
But Fontella Bass didn't rest on "Rescue Me." She continued a long career after that 1965 hit, including tours in Europe, performances with the likes of BB King and James Brown and a 1995 Grammy nomination for a gospel album.
Her efforts earned her a star on the walk of fame in her beloved hometown of St. Louis, not far from Blueberry Hill where she would often eat and once played for our camera.
"And it was just marvelous. She was a great piano player," recalls Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill.
Edwards says Bass was supportive of other local musicians.
"Here's this quiet, very religious person who, when it comes to my rights, I'm going to help out here other musicians too get their rights," Edwards said.
Music seemed to be in Bass' DNA. Her mother was gospel singer Martha Bass. Her younger brother was R&B singer David Peaston, who also passed away this year.
Her musical legacy continues through her grandchildren, two of whom performed earlier this year on the Today show.
Her daughter says singing is what helped her through health issues over the years.
"Her therapy was her grandkids singing around the house and performing for her," said Neuka Mitchell.
Searching the NewsChannel 5 archives, we found a fun video of Bass sharing her gift with NewsChannel 5 anchor Kelly Jackson in 2004.
Fontella Bass lived for 72 years, a journey perhaps best expressed in her own lyrics the day she sang with Jackson.
"Oh, this is so much fun, so much fun," she sang.