It took Fontella 28 years to get paid!
In 1965, Fontella Bass was the first female artist to sell over a million copies of her hit Rescue Me for the legendary label Chess. Only Chuck Berry had previously reached such figures for the label.
Chess was set in Chicago and was a rival to Berry Gordy’s Motown label, located in Detroit. Both labels competed for the white radio audience with Chess coming from a Blues recording background, and Motown armed with its house band The Funk Brothers.
Naturally, Fontella was excited that her song, for which she had been assured she was going to be credited as writing, sold so many copies.
However, when it came time to get paid, she recalls “When it came time to collect my first royalty check, I looked at it, saw how little it was, tore it up, and threw it back across the desk.”
She was told by her manager not to worry about it, of course, she would be paid, eventually…
When eventually never happened, Fontella started complaining again to no use. After not being able to let go of her unfair treatment, she realized that she had gotten a reputation as a troublemaker.
Getting tired of the music business, Fontella moved with her husband to Paris in 1969 to pursue a recording career in Europe instead.
During the 70s and 80s, Bass had little chart success with the few albums she appeared on.
In 1993 she heard her song Rescue Me on a TV ad by American Express. This was clearly too much to take for her as she sued American Express and actually won, collecting $50.000.
It had taken her 28 years to get a paycheck for the song she wrote.
Fontella Bass | Tunes
| A | D |
Rescue me, take me in your arms.
| G | Em |
Rescue me, I want your tender charm,
Go to Rescue Me chords.