While Fontella Bass will always be thought of as one of the preeminent Chicago soul artists (thanks in part to her massive hit, the brilliant 'Rescue Me") her roots and earliest recordings were in St Louis, MO. Fontella's third release (1963), finds her backed by Tina Turner & The Ikettes, and in my opinion is one of her finest records; the personification of sass and power! While in St Louis, Fontella also sang in the Little Milton band, and began an association with Bobby McClure that continued on after her move to Chicago.
Bass relocated to Chicago in late '64, and cut her first duet record with Bobby McClure ('Don't Mess Up A Good Thing') which was released in early '65 and became a minor hit. A second duet disc was released in the summer of '65 which was only a minor r&b hit. However, late in the same year 'Rescue Me" was released and became a massive hit; the song is still heard everywhere (a staple of commercials as well) and for very good reason- it's the type of song and performance that will live on forever. Fontella's followup disc, "Recovery" (early '66) is a lovely song and another mighty fine performance, but it failed to match the massive success of the big hit. further bitterness ensued when Fontella claims she was cheated out of her share of songwriting credits on "Rescue Me" (she eventually won co-writer credit in the 1990's). While Fontella continued on making a few more great records through the '60's, she, along with her husband, avant-garde sax man Lester Bowie (Art Ensemble Of Chicago) moved to Paris. Her vocals grace the incredible Art Ensemble track "Theme De Yo-Yo". Fontella Bass, R,I.P (1940-2012).
Also from Missouri (Kansas City), Marva Whitney (born Marva Ann Manning) had one of the brassiest, funkiest, most powerful voices in all of soul music. Like so many soul singers, her singing career began in the church, and she was a member of family band The Manning Gospel Singers, and at age 16 joined the Alma Whitney Singers (where she met future husband Harry Whitney). Her gospel career ended in 1967, when she joined the James Brown Revue, although the testifying power of her voice always remained fully in the church. James Brown began producing her records in 1968 (beginning with the incredible 'Unwind Yourself") and the godfather certainly helped in unleashing the funk power of sister Marva's voice.
"It's My Thing" (You Can't Tell me Who To Sock It To)" (1969), an absurdly funky answer to the Isley Brothers "It's Your Thing" is not only something of Marva's signature track, but is also a feminist call to arms. James Brown's band vamps furiously behind her, while Marva asserts her place in the world and tells the man that she doesn't NEED him, taking the freedom aspect of The Isleys' jam to a whole other level.
Marva Whitney, R.I.P: 1944-2012