Understanding Principles for Better Living Church

Della Reese

Della Reese (born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931), is an American actress and singer. She started her career in the late 1950s as a jazz singer, best known for her 1959 hit single "Don't You Know". She subsequently became an actress, best known as playing Tess on the television show Touched by an Angel. Today, she is also an ordained New Thought minister in the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles, California. She is of half African-American and half Cherokee descent.

Early life

Della was born in the summer of 1931 in Detroit, Michigan. At only six years old, she began singing in church. From this experience, she became an avid Gospel singer. At the age of thirteen, she was hired to sing with Mahalia Jackson's Gospel group. Afterwards, she formed her own gospel group called the Meditation Singers. However, due in part to the death of her mother, and her father's serious illness, Della had to interrupt her schooling at Wayne State University to help support her family.

Successful singing career

Della was discovered by the Gospel great Mahalia Jackson. Della's big break finally came when she won a contest, which gave her a week to sing at Detroit's well-known and talked-about Flame Show bar. They liked Della so much at the bar, she remained there for eight weeks. Although her roots were always in Gospel music, she was now being exposed to and influenced by such great jazz artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday. In 1953, she got an even bigger break when she signed a recording contract with Jubilee Records. Later that same year, she also joined the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra. Her first recordings for Jubilee were songs such as "In the Still of the Night", "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" and "Time After Time". These songs only hinted at the potential that lurked inside of Reese to make it big in the music business, and all three of the songs failed to gain any chart success.

In 1957, Della released a single called "And That Reminds Me". After years of trying, Della finally had gained chart success with the song. The song became a Top Twenty Pop hit for Reese that year and the record became a million-seller. In 1957, Reese was also voted by Billboard, Cashbox, and various other magazines as The Most Promising Singer.

In 1959, Della had moved on to another record company, this time with RCA Records. She released her first single from the record company called "Don't You Know", which was taken from Puccini's La Bohème. However, Della turned the song into her own and it became her biggest hit ever, reaching the #2 spot on the Pop charts, even going as far as topping the R&B charts that year (which was then called the "Black Singles Chart"). Today, the song is probably known as her signature song.

Her success in the recording business didn't end there. In 1960, she released a successful follow-up single called "Not One Minute More." However, after that, Della's recording career took second place to her other activities. Due to the success of her previous big hits, Della went on to perform in Las Vegas for nine years, as well as touring across the country. However, she didn't stop recording regularly throughout the 1960s, still releasing singles and several albums, two of the first most significant of which were The Classic Della (1962) and Waltz with Me, Della (1963), which were instrumental in her finding a major following abroad, and as a jazz singer on such albums as Della Reese Live (1966), On Strings of Blue(1967), and One of a Kind (1978).

In 1987, she was nominated for a Grammy Award for one of her acclaimed gospel albums.

In 2002, the track "Come-On-A-My-House" was used in the Madonna and Guy Ritchie film Swept Away, in which Madonna mimes to the song in a fantasy section. The film was a commercial failure at the box office.

Television career

In 1969, she was given her first shot at television stardom when she starred on a self-titled variety series. A year later (after her variety series was canceled after one season), she became the first black woman to serve as guest host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Reese later appeared in several TV movies and miniseries' (including The House of Yes, Sanford and Son (in Season 5 episode "Della Della Della" that featured her performing "Ease On Down the Road" with Redd Foxx, and Roots: The Next Generations) and was a regular on Chico and the Man. In 1979, after taping a guest spot for The Tonight Show, she suffered a nearly fatal brain aneurysm, but made a full recovery after two operations by noted neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Drake at University Hospital in London, Ontario. This was Reese's second brush with death. A number of years earlier, she accidentally walked into a plate glass door in her home. She was sliced so badly by the broken glass she required a thousand stitches to close her wounds. She lost most of her blood and later said she had a "near death" experience where she saw her beloved mother.

She played the mother of B. A. Baracus in The A-Team episode "Lease with an Option to Die". After appearing on two sitcoms, Reese did a voice over for the animated series A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. In 1989, she starred alongside Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor and Arsenio Hall in the movie Harlem Nights, where she was seen doing a fight scene with Eddie Murphy. In 1991, she starred opposite Redd Foxx in his final sitcom, The Royal Family. His death halted production of the series for a few months.

Success On Touched by an Angel

From 1994-2003, Reese took on the co-starring role she is possibly best known as Tess on the inspirational television drama Touched by an Angel. Reese also sang the show's theme song. Her participation in this series has given her popularity among the younger audiences a boost.

Life today

Della Reese announced on Larry King Live in 2002, that she suffers from Type-2 diabetes. She is a spokeswoman for the American Diabetes Association, traveling around the United States to raise awareness about the disorder.

In 1983, she married Franklin Thomas Lett, Jr., a concert producer and writer. Between them they have four adult children: Dr. James Barger, Deloreese Owens, Franklin Lett III, and Dominique Lett-Wirtschafter.

Besides being a singer and actress, Reese is an ordained minister in the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles, California. She is godmother to the child of Touched by an Angel co-star, Roma Downey who played a leading role in Touched by an Angel, alongside Reese. In 2005, Reese was honored by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball ceremony along with 25 other African-American women.



Year Single U.S. Pop Singles U.S. R&B Singles Album
1957 "And That Reminds Me" #12 - And That Reminds Me
1959 "Don't You Know" / "Soldier, Won't You Marry Me?" #2 #1 And That Reminds Me
1959 "Sermonette" #99 - What Do You Know About Love?
1960 "And Now" / "There's Nothin' Like a Boy" #69 - -
1960 "Not One Minute More" #16 - Stereo Oldies
1960 "Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You)" #56 - Della
1961 "The Most Beautiful Words" #67 - Della Cha-Cha-Cha
1961 "What Do You Think, Joe?" / "Gone" - - -
1965 "After Loving You" #95 - The Della Reese Collection
1966 "It Was a Very Good Year" #99 - One More Time
1961 "As Long As He Needs Me" / "It Makes No Difference Now" - - -

Selected albums

Year Album
1957 Melancholy Baby
1958 Amen
1958 A Date with Della Reese (At Mr. Kelly's in Chicago)
1959 And That Reminds Me
1959 The Story of the Blues
1959 What Do You Know About Love?
1960 Della
1960 Della By Starlight
1961 Special Delivery
1961 Della Della Cha-Cha-Cha
1962 Della Reese On Stage
1962 The Classic Della
1963 Waltz With Me
1964 Della Reese At Basin Street East
1964 C'mon and Hear
1965 I Like It Like Dat!
1966 Della Reese Live
1967 One More Time
1967 On Strings of Blue
1968 I Gotta Be Me ... This Trip Out
1970 Black Is Beautiful
1975 Let Me Into Your Life
1976 The ABC Collection
1978 One of a Kind
1985 Sure Like Loving You
1990 And Brilliance
1995 Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues
1996 Voice of an Angel
1998 My Soul Feels Better Right Now
1998 The Della Reese Collection
2000 Sure Like Lovin' You
2001 Legendary Della Reese
2002 Della (Expanded)
2006 Give It to God

TV work


External links

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