Gregory Hines is a legendary American tap dancer who played a major role in the revival of the art form in the late 20th century.
Hines, who later launched 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 in New York City on February 14, 1946, the son of Alma Iola (Lawless) and Maurice Robert Hines. His father was a dancer, musician, and actor who taught his children the art of tap dancing at a very young age.
At the age of 2 years, Hines had already started tap dancing. At the age of 5, he started to dance semi-professionally at the side of his brother Maurice Hines after taking lessons with the renowned dancer and choreographer Henry Le Tang. The brothers also made sure to take notes from other veteran tap dancers such as Howard Sims and The Nicholas Brothers.
Under the name “The Hines Kids”, Gregory and Maurice took their songs and dance numbers all over the United States and performed in nightclubs and other smaller venues. When Gregory Hines was six years old, he and his brother got the chance to perform at the Apollo Theatre in New York before they made their Broadway debut in The Girl in Pink Tights (1954) two years later.
Sometimes in their teens, the duo changed their name to “The Hines Brothers” before switching to “Hines, Hines, and Dad” in 1963 after their father joined them as a drummer. Gregory Hines became the lead singer of the group when they began to perform on television and expanded their schedule to include European tours.
In 1973, after tensions between the brothers and declining public interest in their tap dance number, 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 the singer, songwriter, and guitarist.
The group became a house band at Honky Hoagies Handy Hangout (4H Club), one of the original music clubs, before releasing their debut album in 1976. A few years later, the group broke up and Hines returned to New York to resume his dance career.
In 1978, Hines patched things up with his brother, and the two played the lead in “Eubie!”, a tribute to the great American pianist Eubie Blake. The production, choreographed by Hines’ former teacher Le Tang, reinvented the interest in tap dancing and led to Hines playing the leading role in “Comin’ Uptown” (1979) and “Sophisticated Ladies” (1981), for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.
At this time Hines began to appear in television series and movies, where he proved to be a versatile actor with his various roles. Among the movies in which he appeared is 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 promoting and keeping tap dancing alive in the late 20th century when it seemed to be extinct. He was the main driving force behind the creation of National Tap Dance Day, which is currently celebrated in more than 40 states and eight other nations.
He later became 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 dancers, including 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 love life, 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 secret and told only his closest friends.
He was buried at the Ukrainian Orthodox St. Volodymyr Cemetery in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Buried beside him is the Canadian bodybuilder Negrita Jayde, with whom he was engaged before his death.