Fontella Bass has died.
All of her obits are describing her as the “Rescue Me” singer, the ‘Rescue Me” singer, the “Rescue Me” singer, the singer of “Rescue Me”, who is best known for her hit “Rescue Me”.
Annoying, but also exemplary: the media reduces everything it reports.
This is a big problem, because people are not simple, and so they shouldn’t be simplified. Simplified people are missing their important parts.
Perfect example of the harm done via media reduction is what’s happened to Martin Luther King.
MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech is a great speech, very uplifiting, but it was not the only speech he made. The thoughts contained in that speech were not his only thoughts. They are certainly not his most interesting thoughts. They are definitely his least controversial.
In fact the reason the media repeats that particular speech over and over ad nauseum - as if its the only thing that defines him - is because its so harmless. There’s nothing disagreeable, challenging or controversial in it at all (anymore).
But his other speeches , if given today, like when he calls America the “greatest exporter of violence in the world” or when he demands massive, forced wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor - these things would get him labelled a traitor and a communist today! or even worse - maybe they’d call him an occupier.
The point being, MLK didn’t just have one dream, he had many.
And the dreams people don’t know about are just as worthy, and were just as important; but they haven’t come about because the media has reduced them out, of life and existance. dreams deferred and denied!!
and that’s not right, and we need to defy it.
anyhoo back to Fontella Bass.
So what, she had a big hit with “Rescue Me”. So what. Just cause something made a lot of MONEY doesn’t mean that it has VALUE. This is an affliction of capitalism: capitalism tricks people into thinking that Money=Value, that Price=Worth. No, No.
ESPECIALLY in regards to ART.
Fontella Bass was not one-hit wonder, she was an artist. And a pioneer. She co-wrote “Rescue Me” but was denied songwriting credit - and corresponding royalties - but the label. I guess they figured a black woman, doubly powerless at the time, wouldn’t fight back and demand what was hers but she did. She did fight back. And when she did finally get songwriting credit for that song, the first royalty check they gave her was so inadequate that she tore it right up and threw it back in their face!
She was labelled a troublemaker by the labels and her career sufferred for it. She didn’t have as many “hits” as she could have. She isn’t regarded as having as a “successful career” as the other soul singers of her era.
But the fact is, she set a precedent when she demanded credit for the art she created and the proper proportion of the moneys it generated.
Every singer/songwriter and recording artist of vagina or color who followed and got those things easily owes Fontella Bass a giant debt of moral gratitude.
In very real terms Fontella Bass has had a very successful career.
She was working for morality, not money; demanding the money that was hers certainly, but willing to sacrifice it to do what was right.
(Its another thing the media does when it comes to social evolution: they water Martin Luther King down while at the same time, exaggerating his importance. MLK was important, yes, but as important for social justice & evolution are the stands taken, principles kept, and sacrifices made by ordinary, everyday people.
Change doesn’t happen from a leader down.
It happens from the people up.
The leaders bouncing along on a crest only look like they’re leading a wave.
People have the power. They really do.
But its not in the interest of the heirarchy for people to know this, so the opposite lesson is taught in schools.)
Bring the Bass back!
Hits and sales are irrelevant to artistic worth; and in fact, the more something sells, and the more money it generates, the less interesting its likely to be as all its edges have been sawed off for mass consumption.
(creators young and old, remember this! ~~> water need never be used as a downing agent.)
So I end my presentation of the end of Fontella Bass with what I perceive as her masterpiece:
"Breathe", a slow paced, six-minute long dirge without a single hook in it. Rhianna would have no idea how to sing a song like this.
This was a collaboration between Fontella Bass and the Cinematic Orchestra, released in 2002.
Yes, 2002. In fact I think Fontella Bass reached her peak in the early 00s, not that you’d know that she even had a career then from reading her obits.
Not a complicated song, nor is it fast paced.
This is not the sound of pop music;
This is the sound of a woman preparing for her own death.
It is not a “hit”. It is art.
Breathe | Cinematic Orchestra featuring Fontella Bass
Fontella Bass, ars gratia artis. because sparks in the dark are just as hot, the fires they light, just as great. we speak your name.
WRITTEN BY: Derrick Kardos