Claim to Fame: Actress, singer
DOB: July 6, 1931
Diabetes Type: 2
Della Reese was born on July 6, 1931 in Detroit, Michigan. She began singing in her local church as a young child and soon after, at the early age of thirteen, she was afforded the opportunity to sing with Mahalia Jackson and her gospel group.
Reese attended Wayne State University, but was eventually forced to leave and help support her family after the death of her mother. Following her return home from college, she won a gig to sing at a Detroit bar called Flame Show. Reese performed extremely well and impressed the audience. She was asked to continue singing at the bar and did for about two months.
In her early days, her vocal performances were all gospel related, but Reese was soon introduced to and influenced by respectable jazz artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughn. In 1953, she signed a contract with Jubilee Records and joined the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra.
Chart success eventually came with the 1957 release of her fourth single titled “And That Reminds Me.” Reese’s record sold over one million copies and made it into the Top Twenty Pop list. Her biggest hit came after she signed with RCA Records in 1957. The single titled “Dont You Know” climbed all the way to the #2 spot on the pop charts. Throughout the 1960s, she continued to release singles and albums while touring across the country. In 1969, her music career was put on the back burner to shoot a variety series, but the show was cancelled after the first season.
In the 1970s, Reese appeared on several television shows such as Sanford and Son and The House of Yes. After taping a guest show in 1979, she had a near fatal brain aneurism that required her to undergo two neurosurgical operations. Following her recovery, Reese bounced back and lent her voice to the animated series A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. She then starred with a group of successful celebrities in the movie titled Harlem Nights. In 1994, the television drama series Touched by an Angel offered Reese the shows theme song and she was a part of the show for ten years.
In 2002, Della Reese revealed on Larry King Live that she was suffering from type 2 diabetes. Now, she is a spokeswoman for the American Diabetes Association and she travels throughout America to educate others about diabetes.