Delloreese

That’s how she spelled it, originally. “Delloreese Patricia Early,” says the Official Record. At 13, she got a gig with Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group, which was a big deal for a smallish young woman from Detroit. By 1950, she’d foreshortened her name to “Della Reese,” and she took up the fine art of jazz. And in 1957, she got a fair-sized pop hit with “And That Reminds Me,” an Italian instrumental with some post-hoc English lyrics:

Amazingly, the Four Seasons covered “And That Reminds Me” in 1969, reaching (barely) the Top 50.

A very young Della Reese

Della Reese waves

Della Reese with her book Angels Along the Way

Starting around 1970, she added “actress” to her CV; she did dozens of guest shots and in 1994 signed for a lightly regarded TV series called Touched By an Angel. It was canceled after 11 episodes; tons of letters from fans got it a reprieve, and it ran for 200 more episodes.

And I can’t let this go by without “Don’t You Know,” the adaptation of “Musetta’s Waltz” from act two of Puccini’s La Bohème that became Della’s biggest hit in 1959. This salvaged-from-somewhere recording features a latter-day Duke Ellington orchestra:

“The right height for you?” Well, she was only five foot two, but she never sounded small.

She retired from performing in 2014, and died this week at 86.

3 comments

  1. McGehee »

    21 November 2017 · 11:49 pm

    Truly a loss.

  2. Holly H »

    22 November 2017 · 8:11 am

    That is fantastic, that she performed until age 84. Wow.

  3. The Other McCain »

    26 November 2017 · 10:39 pm

    Rule 5 Sunday: The Treasury Secretary’s Wife

    At Dustbury, it’s Della Reese and Deepika Padukone.

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