Rescue Me
Background information
Artist Fontella Bass
Genre Soul, R&B
Length 2:51
Released September 25, 1965
Label Chess
Format 7" single
Writer Raynard Miner, Carl Smith; Fontella Bass (disputed)
Producer Billy Davis
Last single "You'll Miss Me (When I'm Gone)" (with Bobby McClure)
This single "Rescue Me"
Next single "Recovery"

"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.

Original recordingEdit

According to writer Robert Pruter in his book Chicago Soul, the song emerged from a songwriting and rehearsal, or "woodshedding", session at Chess Records:[9] " '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.[10]

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.[10] Other musicians on the record included Pete Cosey and Gerald Sims on guitar, Leonard Caston on piano, Sonny Thompson on organ, and Charles Stepney on vibes. According to Bass, the call-and-response moans heard in the song 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.”[11][12]


The information regarding accolades attributed to "Rescue Me" is adapted from[13]

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 versionsEdit

  • Judy Mowatt recorded the song when she was with The Gaylettes sometime between 1967 and 1973. This version was re-released in 2001 on the album "We Shall Sing - The Gaylettes featuring Judy Mowatt" and again in 2003 on the Trojan Reggae Sisters Box Set.
  • In 1969, The Reggae Girls released a 45rpm produced by Harrold Deeland, on Nu Beat.Script error
  • In 1971, Linda Ronstadt's album Linda Ronstadt featured a live performance of "Rescue Me" as a track.
  • In 1974, Cher released it as a single, that was recorded for the album Dark Lady. Allmusic reviewed her version by calling it a good cover choice and noted that it is always good to hear her voice in classics.[14]
  • In 1976, Melissa Manchester remade the song for her Better Days and Happy Endings album; released as a single the track reached #78 on the Billboard Hot 100 the only Hot 100 showing for "Rescue Me" since the original version.
  • Australian blues rock band Stars recorded "Rescue Me" on their final live album 1157 in 1979.
  • Other artists to record this song include Elkie Brooks, Gail Dahms, Shirley Eikhard, Bryan Ferry, Guys 'n' Dolls, Tom Jones, Gayle McCormick, Ann Peebles, Diana Ross, and Leslie Uggams.
  • Sass Jordan recorded the song for the soundtrack of the 1989 film American Boyfriends; her version reached #44 on the Canadian singles chart.
  • Pat Benatar recorded the song in 1994 for the soundtrack to the film Speed.
  • John Lennon included the Fontella Bass version in his jukebox whilst on tour. The version was included in the compilation album of tracks from the jukebox.
  • The song was covered by The Doc Thomas Group, the precursor to Mott the Hoople.
  • Roy Buchanan also released a version of "Rescue Me" in 1974 on In The Beginning.

Clear Channel memorandumEdit

"Rescue Me" was one of the songs deemed inappropriate by Clear Channel following the September 11, 2001 attacks.[15]

Commercial useEdit

  • 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.[16]
  • "Rescue Me" was also adapted as the jingle for a 1991 and 1992 TV ad campaign for Pizza Hut, with Aretha Franklin rendering the song as "Deliver me". In 2009 "Rescue Me" was utilized in a TV ad campaign by TENA.Script error
  • "Rescue Me" has been used in an advertising campaign by L'Oréal's "Root Rescue" product line, sung in the background of their commercial.Script error

Film useEdit

See alsoEdit


  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. Pruter, Robert (2002). Chicago Soul. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. p. 123. ISBN 0252062590Script error. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 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. 
  11. Sisario, Ben (27 December 2012). "Fontella Bass, 72, Singer of ‘Rescue Me,’ Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  12. Pareles, Jon (13 January 1989). "POP/JAZZ; A Family Of Gospel Singers". The New York Times. 
  13. "Rescue Me". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 2016-09-29. 
  14. Peter Fawthrop. "Dark Lady - Cher | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-29. 
  15. Murphy, Heather. "It's the End of the World as Clear Channel Knows It - Slate Magazine". Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  16. "'My Song Rescued Me'". The Tuscaloosa News. November 25, 1995.,4619789&dq=fontella-bass&hl=en. 

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