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Rescue Me

Fontella Bass

Obit of the Day: Rescued Her

Fontella Bass had released two mediocre singles in 1965, “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing” and “You’ll Miss Me (When I’m Gone)”. Not the start hoped for by Ms. Bass who grew up playing piano for her mother, Martha, a member of the famed Famous Ward Singers.

Her third try nailed it. When “Rescue Me” was released later in ‘65 it became a hit, not only on the R&B charts but reaching #4 on the Billboard pop chart. It would become a standard on the radio for decades and used in numerous films, television shows, and commercials over the next 45 years.

Unfortunately for Ms. Bass “Rescue Me” did not lead to long term success and she found herself nearly destitute by the 1990s. Her fortunes changed, literally, after she sued American Express for royalties for their use of the song in a commercial. (At one point during the recording used for the single, Ms. Bass forgot the words and simply replaced them with “Ummmm, ummmm.” It worked out well.)

Using the money from the settlement, she released “No Ways Tired” in 1995 and earned a Grammy nomination in the Traditional Gospel Album category.

Fontella Bass passed away on December 26, 2012 at the age of 72.

Random note: People often mistake Ms. Bass for Aretha Franklin on this song. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Ms. Franklin sang a version of the song as “Deliver Me” for Pizza Hut in the 1990s.

(“Rescue Me” and are copyright Universal Music Enterprises, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc., 2000.)

Sources: NY Times and Wikipedia

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