Rescue Me (Fontella Bass song)

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"Rescue Me"
Rescue Me Fontella Bass.jpg
Single by Fontella Bass
from the album The New Look
B-side"Soul of the Man"
ReleasedSeptember 25, 1965
  • Raynard Miner
  • Carl Smith
  • Fontella Bass (disputed)
Producer(s)Billy Davis
Fontella Bass singles chronology
""You'll Miss Me (When I'm Gone)" (with Bobby McClure)"
"Rescue Me"

"Rescue Me" is a rhythm and blues song first recorded and released as a single by Fontella Bass in 1965. The original versions of the record,[1] and BMI,[2] give the songwriting credit to Raynard Miner and Carl William Smith, although many other sources also credit Bass herself as a co-writer.[3][4][5][6][7] It would prove the biggest hit of Bass's career, reaching #1 on the R&B charts for four weeks and placing at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.[8] "Rescue Me" also peaked at number eleven on the UK Singles Chart.[9]

Original recording[edit]

According to writer Robert Pruter in his book Chicago Soul, the song emerged from a songwriting and rehearsal, or "woodshedding", session at Chess Records:[10] " 'Rescue Me' was a terrific example of the Chess studio system at its finest... One Saturday in August 1965, Bass was sitting in a rehearsal studio with producers-writers Carl Smith and Raynard Miner. They were fooling around with the song when arranger Phil Wright walked in, and the ensuing four-way jam session brought forth 'Rescue Me'. [Billy] Davis produced the side..." Bass claimed that, although Smith, Miner and Davis had assured her that her contribution to authorship of the song's lyrics would be acknowledged, this was never done.[11]

Bass recorded the song in three takes at Chess Studios in Chicago. Minnie Riperton provided background vocals, and Maurice White and Louis Satterfield, later of Earth, Wind & Fire, were on drums and bass respectively.[11] Other musicians on the record included Pete Cosey and Gerald Sims on guitar, Leonard Caston (later a producer at Motown) on piano, Sonny Thompson on organ, and Charles Stepney on vibes. According to Bass, the call-and-response moans heard in the song's fade were unintentional. In an interview with The New York Times in 1989, she said, “When we were recording that, I forgot some of the words... Back then, you didn’t stop while the tape was running, and I remembered from the church what to do if you forget the words. I sang, ‘Ummm, ummm, ummm,’ and it worked out just fine.”[12][13]

Chart history[edit]


The information regarding accolades attributed to "Rescue Me" is adapted from[19]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Bruce Pollock U.S. The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 2005 *
Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein U.S. The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year 1981 31
Dave Marsh U.S. The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made 1989 305

(*) designates lists that are unordered.

Other versions[edit]

Clear Channel memorandum[edit]

"Rescue Me" was one of the songs deemed inappropriate by Clear Channel following the September 11, 2001 attacks.[21]

In other media[edit]

  • The original version of "Rescue Me" was used in a TV advertising campaign by American Express: Fontella Bass has stated that she was at a low point in her life when on New Year's Day 1990 she was astonished to hear her own voice singing "Rescue Me" on the American Express television ad. The experience gave Bass the inspiration to set her life in order: it also motivated her to make queries over the commercial use of her recording of "Rescue Me" with the ultimate result a 1993 settlement with American Express and its advertising agency awarding Bass $50,000 plus punitive damages.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ""Rescue Me" label shot". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  2. ^ "BMI Repertoire Search: "Rescue Me"". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  3. ^ Salter, Jim (27 December 2012). "Obituaries". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ "Fontella Bass Dies At 72". Huffington Post. 27 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Fontella Bass, singer of 'Rescue Me,' dies". Chicago Sun-Times.
  6. ^ "Fontella Bass, US soul singer of Rescue Me, dies at 72". BBC News. 27 December 2012.
  7. ^ "'Rescue Me' soul singer Fontella Bass dead at 72". CBS News.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 48.
  9. ^ "Official Charts Company". 1965-08-12. Retrieved 2020-05-22.
  10. ^ Pruter, Robert (2002). Chicago Soul. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. p. 123. ISBN 0252062590.
  11. ^ a b Perrone, Pierre (28 December 2012). "Fontella Bass: Singer famed for her powerful interpretation of the million-seller 'Rescue Me'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  12. ^ Sisario, Ben (27 December 2012). "Fontella Bass, 72, Singer of 'Rescue Me,' Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  13. ^ Pareles, Jon (13 January 1989). "POP/JAZZ; A Family Of Gospel Singers". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "Official Charts Company". 1965-08-12. Retrieved 2020-05-22.
  15. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 48.
  17. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, November 27, 1965
  18. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.
  19. ^ "Rescue Me". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  20. ^ Peter Fawthrop. "Dark Lady - Cher | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  21. ^ Murphy, Heather. "It's the End of the World as Clear Channel Knows It - Slate Magazine". Retrieved 2013-12-15.
  22. ^ "My Song Rescued Me". The Tuscaloosa News. November 25, 1995.