Doris Hines used the four-octave voice that God gave her to spellbind listeners and to push back against intolerance.
Hailed as “The Satin Doll” and “Queen of the Eastern Supper Clubs,” the Twin Cities 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.
While Hines’ rich-as-caramel voice entranced audiences around the world, it also instilled in her children a passion for art and justice.
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 Aug. 14 of congestive heart failure. She was 91. Her life was 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 “two peas in a pod,” Gary Hines said.
Hines was born Nov. 27, 1923, in New York, where her childhood was a revolving door of foster homes. She later raised six children in Yonkers, N.Y., as a single mother before moving to Minneapolis in 1963.
Hines’ early years were formed by her mother’s death and abusive foster care. She owned a black cat at the time whom she ironically named “Snowball,” which is the title of her memoir to be published later this year.
As an adult, Hines endured two broken marriages and the deaths of two sons. The drowning of her firstborn son in Lake Waconia in 1971 left her depressed, but she channeled her energies toward pursuing a degree in African-American studies at the University of Minnesota. A devout Baptist, she shared the faith with her children.
“She was always a student of history,” Gary Hines said. It was imperative, she believed, to “make people aware of all people’s contributions,” he added, “particularly African-Americans, being so diminished and overlooked for so long.”
Among her accolades was winning the “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” show, which was the “American Idol” of its era, after 17 auditions. She was the first African-American female vocalist featured in a television commercial for Northwestern Bell Telephone. 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.
“It was always inspiring for me, as an artist, to hear her and watch the way that she caressed certain notes. Her contralto voice just drew you in,” said veteran Twin Cities vocalist Ginger Commodore.
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. “We watched her overcome in every instance and every aspect of life,” Lindquist said.
Besides Gary Hines and Lindquist, she is survived by daughters Grace Boudoir and Shari Smith; sisters Geneva Kelly and Grace Byrd; a niece and nephew of Yonkers; six grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Progressive Baptist Church, 1505 Burns Av., St. Paul.