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DELLA REESE Wayne State University

Posted By: Elynor Moss on November 07, 2022

In this video
Luther Vandross & Della Reese - I Believe
"Touched by an angel" (2002)
Season 8 - Episode 20

Delloreese Patricia Early (July 6, 1931 – November 19, 2017), known professionally as Della Reese, was an American jazz and gospel singer, actress, and ordained minister whose career spanned seven decades. She began her long career as a singer, scoring a hit with her 1959 single "Don't You Know?". In the late 1960s she hosted her own talk show, Della, which ran for 197 episodes.[1][2] From 1975 she also starred in films, playing opposite Redd Foxx in Harlem Nights (1989), Martin Lawrence in A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996) and Elliott Gould in Expecting Mary (2010). Reese achieved continued success in the religious television drama Touched by an Angel (1994–2003), in which she played the leading role of Tess.

Early Years

Della Reese was born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931, in the historic Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan, to Richard Thaddeus Early, an African-American steelworker, and Nellie (Mitchelle), a Native American cook of the Cherokee tribe.[3][4][5] Her mother had had several children before Reese's birth, none of whom lived with her; hence, Reese grew up as an only child. At six years old, Reese began singing in church; from this experience she became an avid gospel singer.



On weekends in the 1940s, she and her mother would go to the movies independently to watch the likes of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Lena Horne portray glamorous lives on screen. Afterward, Reese would act out scenes from the films. In 1944, she began her career directing the young people's choir, after she had nurtured acting plus her obvious musical talent. She was often chosen, on radio, as a regular singer. At the age of 13, she was hired to sing with Mahalia Jackson's gospel group. Reese entered Detroit's Cass Technical High School (where she attended the same year as Edna Rae Gillooly, later known as Ellen Burstyn). She also continued with her touring with Jackson. With higher grades, she became in 1947 the first in her family to graduate from high school, aged 15.

After this she formed her own gospel group, the Meditation Singers. However, due in part to her father's serious illness and the death of her mother, Reese had to interrupt her schooling at Wayne State University to help support her family. Faithful to the memory of her mother, Delloreese moved out of her father's house when she disapproved of him taking up with a new girlfriend. She then took on odd jobs, such as truck driver, dental receptionist, and elevator operator, after 1949. Performing in clubs, Early soon decided to shorten her name from "Delloreese Early" to "Della Reese".

Yes there’s more https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Della_Reese
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DELLA REESE Wayne State University

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