Dancer, actor, singer, and choreographer Gregory Oliver Hines (pictured) was born on Valentine’s Day in 1946. The late Tony Award-winning tap dance legend made his stage debut back in the early 1950s, learning tap dancing at the age of 3 alongside his older brother Maurice. Along with his Tony Award win, Hines would also win a Daytime Emmy for his work on animated children’s series “Little Bill” and starred in more than 30 film and television productions.
Gregory Hines was born in New York City to parents Maurice Sr. and Alma. Hines would learn the art of tap and dance from legendary choreographer late-Henry LeTang, who also taught Savion Glover, Debbie Allen, Leslie Uggams, Ben Vereen, Lena Horne, and many others.
Making a splash as a nightclub dance act as the Hines Kids (later the Hines Brothers), Maurice and Gregory would eventually be joined by their drummer father to form the trio “Hines, Hines & Dad.”
After thrilling audiences at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem and touring around the country, the group caught a big break after appearing on an episode of the “Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” which sparked a series of repeat appearances.
The group split in 1973, with Gregory leaving to experiment with singing as the lead vocalist for jazz-rock group Severance in California. He then shortly moved back to New York and re-established his ties with the dance community.
Landing on Broadway in a variety of stage productions, he would be nominated for a Tony for his role in “Eubie!” and eventually won a Theatre World Award in 1979. From there he starred in the musical “Comin’ Uptown,” which also landed him a Tony nomination in 1980. He finally won the elusive award in 1992 for his headlining role in the musical “Jelly’s Last Jam.”
Hines made his film debut in 1981 in the satirical comedy “History Of The World Part 1” from director Mel Brooks. Hines played the role of a roman slave, replacing a physically ailing Richard Pryor. That role ended up jump starting Hines’ acting career, starting in “The Cotton Club,” “White Nights,” and “Tap.”
Watch Hines perform in “History” here:
Although a bulk of his early films focused on his dancing ability, Hines was able to show personality and charm in comedic roles in like 1994’s “Renaissance Man” as well. With an easygoing charm, Hines also managed to snag a short-lived eponymously named television show on CBS in 1997.
As a singer, Hines held his own and even notched a No. 1 R&B hit alongside crooner Luther Vandross with the song “There’s Nothing Better Than Love” in 1986 and released a self-titled album the following year. Later in his career, Hines was still working in Hollywood in the early 2000s after landing the voice role of Big Bill in children’s program “Little Bill.”
Watch the “There’s Nothing Better Than Love” music video here:
Hines would succumb to liver cancer at the age of 57 on August 9, 2003, as he traveled to a hospital from his Los Angeles home.
Few knew of his condition, and he kept the details hidden up until his death. Hines was still working as an actor up until the time of his passing, leaving behind his daughter, Daria; son Zachary; and stepdaughter.
Hines nearly lived his entire life in the spotlight and flourished in every facet of entertainment he decided to undertake.
Taking inspiration from his idol Sammy Davis Jr., Hines carried the tradition of song and dance and applied that same work ethic in the world of film. Although Hines is no longer with us, he’s left behind an impressive body of work that will last for generations to come.
Happy Birthday And Restful Peace to Gregory Hines!