Singer Della Reese, who moved from pop and jazz singing stardom in the 1950s and 1960s to a long career as a popular TV actress on Touched by an Angel and other shows, is dead. She was 86.
Reese died on Sunday night at her home in California, reports variety.com.
“She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend and pastor as well as an award-winning actress and singer. Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people,” actress Roma Downey, Reese’s co-star said in a statement.
Downey added: “She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years on ‘Touched by an Angel.’ I know heaven has a brand new angel this day. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts.”
Singer Dionne Warwick said: “We have lost another voice that I’m sure God will use in that great heavenly choir.”
Reared in gospel, Reese became a seductive, big-voiced secular music star with her R&B and pop hit “Don’t You Know” in 1959.
By 1969 she had launched her TV show Della – the first talker hosted by an African-American woman.
After a number of guest appearances, Reese broke into TV full-time with a starring role in the hit 1975-78 Jack Albertson-Freddie Prinze comedy series “Chico and the Man.”
She also took starring roles in the features Harlem Nights and A Thin Line Between Love and Hate and appeared in 20 made-for-TV pictures.
Her greatest popularity came as co-star of the inspirational show Touched by an Angel.
She is survived by her husband Franklin Lett, a film producer and concert promoter.