Fontella Bass performing in 2001 in New York’s Apollo Theatre | Associated Press/Voice of America | Louis Lanzano | tc014
Fontella Bass was born on July 3, 1940 and died on December 26, 2012 after a series of strokes which began in 2005.
Born into a famous musical family, she was singing in public from the age of six. She was the older sister of the R&B singer David Peaston.
In 1961 she began singing for Little Milton’s show, where she met Oliver Sain. Sain split with Little Milton and formed The Oliver Sain Soul Revue. Fontella and Bobby McClure joined Sain’s Revue. In 1964 both Fontella and Bobby signed with Chess and started recording, both solo recordings and duets. The duet “Don’t mess up a good thing” was the initial success. Then in 1965 Fontella recorded “Rescue Me”. This was Chess’ first million selling record for some time but Bass was disappointed with the financial rewards for providing it. There were other hits but they provided diminishing returns. Fontella and her husband Lester Bowie left America and moved to Paris in 1969.