Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Godspeed Della Reese

Singer and actress Della Reese died on November 19 2017 at the age of 86.

Della Reese was born Delloreese Early in Detroit, Michigan. She was only six years old when she joined the junior choir at her church. She eventually became a soloist and sang at other churches and various events. She also sang on the radio. She was 13 years old when she joined Mahalia Jackson's gospel group. She toured with Mahalia Jackson for five summers. Miss Reese briefly attended Wayne State University, but had to drop out following her mother's death.

Della Reese held down various jobs while still pursuing a singing career. She formed her own group, the Meditation Singers. It was in 1951 that she won a singing contest sponsored by a newspaper while singing at a bowling alley/nightclub. She won a week long engagement at an after hours club. The engagement at the club was later extended. It was an agent who got her a job singing with Erskine Hawkins’ jazz orchestra for nine months. In 1954 she signed her first recording contract. Her first single, "In The Still Of The Night", was released in 1955. She made her television debut in 1956 as a guest vocalist on Stage Show. In 1957 she had her first major hit single, "And That Reminds Me", which peaked at no. 12 on the Billboard singles chart. She would have even more success with her next single, "Don't You Know", which went to no. 2 on the Billboard singles chart 1959. She had one more major hit, "Not One Minute More", in 1960. In the late Fifties she appeared on such shows as The Big Record, The Ed Sullivan Show, Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium, and Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall. She appeared as herself in the movie Let's Rock.

In the Sixties Della Reese's music career went in decline. She had several hits reach the Billboard Hot 100, but none entered the top forty. She continued to appear frequently on television, appearing on such shows as The Tonight Show, The Lively Ones, The Hollywood Palace, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Jonathan Winters Show, The Dom DeLuise Show, and Playboy After Dark. She hosted her own show, Della, from 1969 to 1970. In 1968 she made her acting debut on an episode of The Mod Squad. She also guest starred on The New Doctors.

In the Seventies Della Reese was a regular on the hit sitcom Chico and the Man. She guest starred on the shows Getting Together, Police Woman, Petrocelli, Police Story, Joe Forrester, The Rookies, McCloud, Medical Centre, Welcome Back Kotter, and Insight. She also appeared in several TV movies. Miss Reese appeared in the feature films Psychic Killer (1975).

In the Eighties Della Reese was a regular on the show It Takes Two and had a recurring role on Charlie & Co. She guest starred on the shows The Love Boat, The A-Team, Crazy Like a Fox, Night Court, 227, and The Young Riders. She appeared in the feature film Harlem Nights (1989).

In the Nighties Della Reese starred on The Royal Family and Touched by an Angel. She guest starred on such shows as MacGyver, Designing Women, L.A. Law, Picket Fences, and Promised Land. She appeared in the films The Distinguished Gentleman (1992) and A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996). she was one of the voices in the animated feature film Dinosaur (2000). In the Naughts she guest starred on That's So Raven and The Young and the Restless. She appeared in the films Beauty Shop (2005), If I Had Known I Was a Genius (2007), and A Very Mary Christmas (2010).

In the Teens Della Reese appeared in the feature films Me Again (2012) and Meant to Be (2012). She guest starred on  Signed, Sealed, Delivered.

After the Sixties Della Reese recorded two more albums: Blue Skies in 1994 and Give It to God in 2006.

Although she is now best remembered as an actress, Della Reese was a fine singer. She had a dulcet voice that was very adaptable. She could sing both popular songs and gospel music with ease. Of course, she also had that same adaptability when it came to acting. She did equally well playing both comedic roles and dramatic roles. She could play anything from the matriarch of a family to the owner of a trailer park. In the end Della Reese was one of those rare individuals with multiple talents, both singing and acting.

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