Dr. James T. Godbolt, Jr., a.k.a. Jimmy Slyde, whose musicality and elegance thrilled audiences from Japan to Europe, South America and elsewhere, and whose generosity and wisdom inspired generations of dancers over a career spanning six decades, died peacefully at his home in Hanson, Massachusetts on Friday, May 16, 2008.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 2, 1927, Dr. Slyde was raised in Boston, MA from around the age of three. He began playing the violin at the age of 10, and tap dancing at 12, studying at Stanley Brown’s dance studio, where he met Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and other great dancers of the era. By the late 1940s he was dancing professionally, eventually teaming up with Jimmy “Sir Slyde” Mitchell as “The Slyde Brothers” and going on to dance with the big bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong and others.
Dr. Slyde appeared in several motion pictures including Tap, The Cotton Club, About Tap, A Star in Born, and ‘Round Midnight. He was nominated for a Tony award for his role in the Broadway musical Black and Blue, appeared in 1000 years of Jazz with the Original Hoofer, performed at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall, and in the 1980’s and 1990’s at the Kennedy Center and the White House for Presidents Reagan and Clinton. He also held court regularly at the tap nights known as the “Tap University” at New York City’s La Cave and La Place, taught at jacob’s Pillow in western Massachusetts as well as Brazil, Switzerland, and France, where he lived for seven years.
Dr. Slyde’s dancing was unique both visually and musically, combining seemingly gravity-defying moves and a wide array of rhythms and tone rarely heard from a pair of tap shoes. He received numerous awards and recognitions including a National Endowment for the ARts National Heritage Fellowship in 1999, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, and an honorary Doctorate of Performing Arts from Oklahoma City University in 2002. A few of the dancers mentored and “nudged” by Dr. Slyde include Roxanne Butterfly, Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, Rocky Mendes, Andrew J. Nemr, Sarah Petronio, and Dianne Walker, among many others. He is survived by a son, Darrell, and by the world of dance to which he contributed so richly.