Gregory Hines is a legendary American tap dancer who played a huge part in revitalizing the art form in the late 20th century.
Hines, who went on to launch successful careers as an actor, singer, and choreographer on Broadway and in Hollywood, is known for his performances and award-winning roles in Running Scared (1988), Jelly’s Last Jam (1992), Bojangles (2001) and The Red Sneakers (2002).
Who Is Gregory Hines? – Biography
Gregory Oliver Hines was born to Alma Iola (Lawless) and Maurice Robert Hines in New York City on February 14, 1946. His father was a dancer, musician, and actor who taught his children the art of tap dancing at a very young age.
By the age of 2, Hines had already started tap dancing. He began doing it semi-professionally at the age of 5 alongside his brother Maurice Hines after having taken lessons from renowned dancer and choreographer Henry Le Tang. The brothers also made sure to take notes from other veteran tap dancers like Howard Sims and The Nicholas Brothers.
Under the moniker ‘The Hines Kids’, Gregory and Maurice took their songs and dance act all across the United States, performing in nightclubs, and other smaller venues. By the time Gregory Hines was six years of age, he and his brother got the chance to perform at the Apollo Theatre in New York before making their Broadway debut two years later in The Girl in Pink Tights (1954).
Sometime in their teenage years, the duo changed their name to “The Hines Brothers” before later switching to “Hines, Hines, and Dad” in 1963 after their father joined their act as a drummer. Gregory Hines became the group’s lead singer as they began to perform on television and added European tour dates to their schedule.
In 1973, following tension between the brothers and declining public interest in their tap dancing act, Hines decided to leave the group and try something else. He then moved to Venice, California where he formed a Rock/Jazz band called Severance and served as its singer, songwriter, and guitarist.
The group became a house band at Honky Hoagies Handy Hangout (4H Club), one of the original music clubs before going on to release their debut album in 1976. A few years later, the group broke up and Hines returned to New York to resume his dancing career.
In 1978, Hines patched things up with his brother and the two of them went on to star in ‘Eubie!’, which was a tribute to the great American pianist Eubie Blake. The production, which was choreographed by Hines’ former teacher Le Tang, reinvented interest in tap dancing and led to Hines going on to star in Comin’ Uptown (1979) and Sophisticated Ladies (1981) for which he earned a Tony Award nomination.
By this time, Hines began appearing on television series and movies where he proved to be a versatile actor with his various roles. Some of the movies he appeared in include; History of the World: Part I (1981), The Cotton Club (1984), White Nights (1985) and Tap (1989).
What Is He Known For?
Gregory Hines is known for driving and keeping tap dancing alive in the late 20th century when it seemed to had died off. He was the major driving force in the creation of National Tap Dance Day which is currently celebrated in more than 40 US states and in eight other nations.
He went on to become a member of the board of directors of Manhattan Tap, the Jazz Tap Ensemble, and the American Tap Foundation. He also influenced the next generation of tap dance artists which include Savion Glover, Dianne Walker, Ted Levy, and Jane Goldberg.
When and How Did Gregory Hines Die?
Gregory Hines who once said that his dancing influenced all aspects of his life including his singing, acting, and lovemaking, died on August 9, 2003, in Los Angeles, California on his way to the hospital. It was later reported that Hines had been diagnosed with liver cancer more than a year before his death which he kept a secret and only told his closest friends.
He was buried in Saint Volodymyr’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Canadian bodybuilder, Negrita Jayde, whom he was engaged to before his death, is buried beside him.