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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 the 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 had a long love of 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 television commercial for Northwestern Bell Telephone company.
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, among others. She performed at the Ordway, Orpheum, and numerous Twin Cities nightspots as well as in Japan, Australia, and throughout the United States.
Hines used the four-octave rich-as-caramel voice that God gave her to spellbind listeners and to push back against intolerance. Her life was both studded with hardship and triumph and enriched by luminaries in the jazz world and in literary works of such writers as Maya Angelou, also 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 were friends.
Music was the “vanguard for struggles for equality,” especially for African Americans, said her son Gary Hines. Her genres jazz, blues, jazz, and pop could be used as subtle acts of protest. Doris Hines died on August 14th, 2015 of congestive heart failure she was 91.
African American Registry, ‘Voices That Guide Us’ interview