Gregory Oliver Hines was a renowned actor, dancer, singer and choreographer, born on February 14, 1946 in New York City, New York. Hines passion for tap dancing originated as a result of this long standing tradition in the family, given that his father Maurice Robert Hines was also a professional tap dancer. He began cherishing this art at the tender age of 2, and by the age of 5 was performing on a semi-professional basis in nightclubs and local bars. Initially a duet, Hines together with his brother steamrolled an ingenuous venture of tap dancing known as ‘The Hines Kids’, occasionally performing in many famous venues in New York. After furnishing their skills under the tutelage of Henry LeTang, Howard Sims and The Nicholas Brothers, the group’s name officially changed to Hines, Hines, and Dad in 1963 after Gregory’s father joined him alongside his brother.
Hines’ Broadway debut commenced in 1954 with The Girl in Pink Tights. However, it was only in the late 1970s and the 1980s when he was internationally acknowledged as a stand-up Broadway personality. He was nominated for the Tony Award for Eubie! (1979), Comin’ Uptown (1980) and Sophisticated Ladies (1981), while winning it for Jelly’s Last Jam (1992).
Gregory Hines was often described to have a unique set of skills at improvising tap dances. His ability to change up tempos and bring in a myriad of rhythmic step patterns truly infatuated his audiences and had a huge bearing on the future of Black tap dance. He was simultaneously recognized to be one of very few tap dancers who performed a solo while constructing out-of-the-box rhythmic patterns. Throughout most of his life, he continued to be a rigorous supporter of tap dance in America, having vouched for a National Tap Dance Day in 1988, a culture widely celebrated in the country today. He was also an influential member of groups such as Manhattan Tap, Jazz Tap Ensemble, and the American Tap Foundation. Given his reputation, he influenced a number of future tap dancers such as Savion Glover, Dianne Walker and Ted Levy.
In the hyper-functioning era of the 1970s and 1980s, Hines was recognized for a multitude of professions, besides tap dancing. His long standing affiliation with the 1970s rock band Severance made an everlasting mark on the musical industry of the time. Hines was the lead singer for the band in the years 1975-76. Based out of Venice, California, Severance served as a house band for one of the city’s popular clubs called Honky Hoagies Handy Hangout. Hines is also recognized to have performed a top charting song called “There’s Nothing Better Than Love” with Luther Vandross in the late 1980s.
The music icon also played a fair share of role in the film industry of the early 1980s. Debuting with a 1981 classic called History of the World, Part I, Hines continued to star in popular films such as The Cotton Club, White Nights, Running Scared, Tap and Waiting to Exhale. Such was his success that by the late 1990s, he had his own Television show called The Gregory Hines Show, alongside his recurring role of Ben Doucette on Will & Grace.
Gregory Hines passed away on August 9, 2003 of liver cancer and is buried in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. He left behind a son named Zach, a daughter, Daria and a stepdaughter named Jessica Koslow.