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*Doris Hines was born on this date in 1923. She was a Black singer and impersonator.
She was born in New York City, where her childhood was a revolving door of foster homes after her mother’s death. She owned a black cat as a child whom she named “Snowball,” which later became the title of her memoir. Among her youthful accolades was winning the “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” show after 17 auditions.
She later raised six children in Yonkers, N.Y., as a single mother before moving to Minneapolis in 1963. In 1965, she toured the Far East for the USO to support America’s troops. Also, as an adult, Hines received her degree in African American studies at the University of Minnesota. A devout Baptist, she shared her faith with her children.
She recorded with the Grammy-winning group Sounds of Blackness, which Gary Hines directs and appeared in, plays at the Penumbra and Guthrie theaters, and sang at such Twin Cities nightspots as Big Al’s, the Manor, and Ruby’s Cabaret. Hines enjoyed Italian and Asian cooking and long loved the Midwestern outdoors. She enjoyed camping in Wisconsin with her daughter Diane Lindquist, with whom she completed her memoir. She was the first Black female vocalist featured in a Northwestern Bell Telephone Company television commercial.
Often referred to as “The Satin Doll” and “Queen of the Eastern Supper Clubs,” the Minneapolis jazz singer shared stages with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Harry Belafonte. She performed at the Ordway, Orpheum, and Twin Cities nightspots in Japan, Australia, and the United States.
Hines used the four-octave rich-as-caramel voice God gave her to spellbind listeners and push back against intolerance. Her life was studded with hardship and triumph and enriched by luminaries in the jazz world and the literary works of such writers as Maya Angelou, her friend. In the mid-1960s, Angelou was passing through Honolulu. She’d heard what Nat King Cole had told Ella Fitzgerald: Do not miss Doris Hines. Angelou saw Hines perform, and ever since, they have been friends.
Music was the “vanguard for struggles for equality,” especially for African Americans, said her son Gary Hines. Her jazz, blues, jazz, and pop genres could be used as subtle acts of protest. Doris Hines died of congestive heart failure on August 14, 2015; she was 91.