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Saturday, 6 July 2013

Della Reese born 6 July 1931

Della Reese (born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931), is an American actor 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.

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.

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 1979, after taping a guest spot for The Tonight Show, she suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm, but made a full recovery after two operations by neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Drake at University Hospital in London, Ontario. In 1983, she married Franklin Thomas Lett, Jr., a concert producer and writer. In 1987, she was nominated for a Grammy Award for one of her acclaimed gospel albums.

In 2002, Reese announced on Larry King Live that she had been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. She became a spokeswoman for 
the American Diabetes Association, traveling around the United States to raise awareness about this disorder.

In 2005, Reese was honored by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball ceremony, along with 25 other women of African-American descent.

Reese was ordained as a minister in 2010, after serving as the senior minister and founder of the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church, an independent "Christian New Thought" congregation, which currently meets at First Lutheran Church ( in Inglewood, California. In her ministerial work, she is known as the Rev. Dr. Della Reese Lett. (info edited from Wikipedia)
Here's a clip from the DVD: "That Old Black Magic", live performance on CBC Canada, 1960.

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