Singer-actress Della Reese looks back at her several decades as an entertainer in “Della Reese: My Life in Song.”
The show, coming on the heels of her 81st birthday, reflects the fact that for her, “my life literally has been a song. I started singing and driving my mother crazy when I was 6 and have been singing ever since.”
The “Touched by an Angel” actress, best known in music for the hit “Don’t You Know,” says she performs her popular songs, songs she did for movies and songs representing different parts of her life.
“It’s like you’re sitting in my living room and we’re celebrating my 81st birthday, all the things that’ve happened, good and bad, and how the bad turned out to be good,” says Reese, also an ordained minister.
Here’s a look at some highlights in Reese’s career and her comments about them:
• ”Don’t You Know” (1959 hit single adapted from Puccini’s “La Boheme”): “That was a door-opener for me. Everybody else was singing rock ’n’ roll and here was a classical song that hit No. 1. That made people say, ‘Let’s see who she is.’ ”
• “The Classic Della” (1962 album recorded with a symphony orchestra): “That was a great experience for me. I came up singing with a tambourine and a group of singers, singing gospel. To have all those musicians around me playing what I wanted to hear ... most of the time I was just looking around. They had to say please stay in touch with the microphone.”
• “Della” (TV talk show from the late ’60s that ran for nearly 300 episodes): “It was exciting. In my life, in my career, I have been a door-opener, opening the door for it to be possible that a black woman could do that. It was 15 years later before Oprah Winfrey got the chance to do what she is doing so magnificently. But somebody had to open the door and stick their foot through first, and that was my job.”
• “Chico and the Man” (classic but short-lived sitcom starring the late Freddie Prinze that ran from 1974 to 1978): “I had done several other things before that, and it wasn’t the first time I had a regular part on a show. But it was a pleasure.”
• “Touched by an Angel” (television drama starring Roma Downey that ran from 1994 to 2003): “That was heaven. It was a chance to work with a marvelous lady, Roma Downey, my ‘daughter,’ and an opportunity to use the things I espouse about helping people.”
Today, Reese says she’s at a wonderful place in her career, regardless of whether she has jobs lined up.
“I don’t have to have a hit record or worry if I get a job,” says Reese, who learned how to sing the blues in St. Louis early in her career. “It’s all gravy and goodness. The Father sends things to me in the most exciting ways.”