2012 ends on a sad note for soul fans with the announcement of the passing of yet another soul veteran…. FONTELLA BASS. Her daughter, NEUKA MITCHELL, announced that her mother had died at a St Louis hospice on Wednesday night (December 26th) of complications from a heart attack suffered three weeks ago. The singer had been in poor health since suffering a series of strokes in 2005.
Ms BASS was born in St. Louis in 1940 and was the daughter of the gospel vocalist, MARTHA BASS and consequently FONTELLA spent much of her early life singing in the local church. Then as a teenager she turned more and more to secular music which led to her working with OLIVER SAIN and LITTLE MILTON. While working with SAIN’S band she met and married avant-garde trumpeter LESTER BOWIE.
After quitting the SAIN band she signed a solo deal with Chess Records and she enjoyed some success with a series of duets with BOBBY McCLURE (whom she’d worked with as part of the OLIVER SAIN Revue). Then working with MAURICE WHITE and GENE BARGE she created the song that would become her calling card – ‘Rescue Me’. The infectious Motown-style dancer sold over 1 million copies and went top 5 pop, becoming one of Chess’s most lucrative copyrights. Follow-ups like ‘Recovery’ and ‘You’ll Never Know’ weren’t as successful and after one Chess long player, ‘The New Look’, FONTELLA quit the Chicago imprint in 1967.
In 1969, FONTELLA and LESTER BOWIE moved to Paris where they worked with the ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO – participating on two albums with them. In the 80s she recorded with BOWIE then moved back into the Gospel arena where the album ‘From The Root To The Source’ (recorded with her brother, DAVID PEASTON, and her mother) was critically acclaimed. Her 2001 album – ‘Travellin” was another Gospel success.
FONTELLA’S husband died in 1999 and her brother DAVID PEASTON passed away earlier this year. FONTELLA is survived by three children