Longtime Singer and TV star Della Reese dead at 86

Della Reese, the singer and TV star, has died at her Los Angeles area home. Reese first found fame as a Gospel-influenced jazz singer but it was television that brought her an enormous fan base when she starred alongside Roma Downey in the hit TV series, Touched by an Angel.

As the title suggests, Reese and Downey played two angels,Tess and Monica, who ministered to people needing to have some Heavenly hope in their lives. The show aired on CBS and ran from 1994 to 2003. Reese was in her sixties at the time.

Downey confirmed the news in a statement in which she called Reese “an incredible mother, wife, grandmother, friend and pastor.”

Reese released her first single, a hit — “Don’t You Know” — in 1959. She was equally adept at standards, contemporary pop, and jazz. She picked up four Grammy nominations before entering a new phase of her career as a TV talker, Della, in 1969 — the first African-American woman to launch her own talkfest. Along the way, Reese began a foray into acting, which would take her to even loftier heights of fame. From 1975-1978, she co-starred with Freddie Prinze and Jack Albertson on Chico and the Man.

Some of the TV programs in which she appeared included L.A. Law, Macgyver, Police -Woman, The Rookies, Welcome Back, Kotter, The A Team, The Mod Squad, Night Court, Designing Women, McCloud and The Love Boat.

Born in 1931 in Detroit as Delloreese Patricia Early, Reese began her career singing with the legendary Gospel icon, Mahalia Jackson. Married four times, Reese is survived by her husband, Franklin Lett.

BELOW: Touched by an Angel clip.

BELOW: Don’t You Know

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