Who was Gregory Hines?
Gregory Hines was an American dancer and actor who appeared in movies like ‘The Cotton Club’ and ‘White Nights.’ He was also a noted choreographer. Much renowned as a dancer, he is considered a major figure in the revitalization of tap dancing in the late 20th century. One of the sons of Maurice Robert Hines, a dancer, musician, and actor, Gregory was introduced to dance and music early on in life. He began tapping when he was two years old and started dancing professionally while he was still a young child. Along with his elder brother, he studied under choreographer Henry LeTang and also learned dance from other prominent teachers. He began performing in night clubs with his brother and in 1963 became a part of the family act "Hines, Hines, and Dad". He grew up to be a multi-talented young man and performed as the lead singer and musician in a rock band called Severance for a short period of time. Dark, handsome, and blessed with a variety of talents, he enjoyed a very successful Broadway career. Hines soon ventured into films after having gained a reputation for his singing and dancing skills. An advocate for tap in America, he successfully petitioned the creation of National Tap Dance Day, which is now celebrated in 40 cities in the United States.
Childhood & Early Life
Gregory Oliver Hines was born on February 14, 1946, in New York City, New York, to Alma Iola and Maurice Robert Hines. His father was a dancer, musician, and actor. Gregory, along with his brother, was exposed to the show business at a young age.
He was just two when he began tapping. Within a few years he started dancing professionally with his brother Maurice. The brothers, both naturally talented, received training from choreographer Henry LeTang. They also learned from veteran tap dancers Howard Sims and The Nicholas Brothers whenever they performed in the same venues.
The brothers began performing in night clubs as “The Hines Kids”, and later as "The Hines Brothers". In 1963, their father joined as a drummer and the name of the group was changed to "Hines, Hines, and Dad".
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The trio was a very popular one. They toured and performed throughout the United States and Europe and were also invited to appear on television a number of times. But with time Gregory and his brother started having issues with each other which led Gregory to leave the act in 1973.
Gregory Hines moved to California and formed a jazz-rock band Severance, serving as songwriter, singer, and guitarist. The band became one of the house bands at an original music club called Honky Hoagies Handy Hangout. They even released an album in 1976. However, the band broke up by the late 1970s.
He returned to New York to resume his dancing career. He ventured into a Broadway career where he found considerable success with his stylish looks and graceful dance moves.
He appeared in the musical ‘Eubie’ in 1978 for which he received his first Tony nomination. He followed it up with critically acclaimed performances in ‘Comin' Uptown’ (1980) and ‘Sophisticated Ladies' (1981).
His resounding success on the Broadway motivated the ambitious young man to try his luck in films. He played his first film role, as a Roman slave in Mel Brooks' ‘History of the World-Part 1’ in 1981. His performance was well-liked by fans and he started getting numerous other film offers.
His other films in the 1980s included ‘The Cotton Club’ (1984) and ‘White Nights’ (1985) opposite Mikhail Baryshnikov. In 1987, Hines released an album, simply titled ‘Gregory Hines’.
A brilliant dancer, he was wholeheartedly committed to the art form. Dance was his true love and he claimed that everything he did was influenced by his dancing. He was an advocate for tap dance in America and successfully petitioned the creation of National Tap Dance Day in 1988. The National Tap Dance Day is now celebrated in 40 cities in the United States, and also in eight other nations.
He continued his Broadway career in the 1990s and appeared in the musical ‘Jelly's Last Jam’ in 1992 which was based on the life and career of Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, known as Jelly Roll Morton. In 1994, Gregory Hines made his directorial debut with ‘Bleeding Hearts’.
He was also active on television and starred in his own series in 1997 called ‘The Gregory Hines Show’ on CBS. He voiced Big Bill in Nick Jr.'s television show ‘Little Bill’.
Gregory Hines portrayed Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, known as Jelly Roll Morton, in the musical ‘Jelly's Last Jam’ (1992) which was based on the life and career of Morton. The musical was a resounding success that won Hines several awards and accolades.
His portrayal of entertainer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in the 2001 biographical drama ‘Bojangles’ is another one of his outstanding works. He received much appreciation for the incredible tap dance routines in the film.
Awards & Achievements
In 1992, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for ‘Jelly's Last Jam’. He also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical for the same.
He was presented with the Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for ‘Bojangles’ in 2002.
He was the winner of the 2003 Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for ‘Little Bill.’
Personal Life & Legacy
Gregory Hines married Patricia Panella in 1968. This marriage ended in divorce. His second marriage to Pamela Koslow also ended in divorce. He had two children and one step-daughter.
He became ill with liver cancer in his mid-fifties and died on August 9, 2003, aged 57. At the time of his death he was engaged to Negrita Jayde.