Soul singer Fontella Bass has passed away at the age of 72.

The Rescue Me hitmaker died at a St. Louis, Missouri hospice centre on Wednesday (26Dec12) after suffering complications from a heart attack.

The star, whose mother was gospel singer Martha Bass, began singing in a local choir when she was just six years old and she later joined her mum on the road as she toured with the Clara Ward Singers.

Bass signed to Chess Records and released two collaborations with Bobby MCClure - Don't Mess Up a Good Thing and You'll Miss Me (When I'm Gone) - in 1965, before finding global fame with the smash-hit Rescue Me.

She followed that with the hits Recovery, I Can't Rest and You'll Never Know.

After the release of her second album in 1972, Bass retired from music to focus on her family with her jazz trumpeter husband Lester Bowie.