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.
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.
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.
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"||-||-||-|
|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 By Starlight|
|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|
|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|
|2006||Give It to God|