Cuba was his name: Barbados his ‘main’ claim to fame

Cuba was his name: Barbados his ‘main’ claim to fame
Vince Bucci

Generations of rhythm and blues aficionados are grieving the death of Cuba Gooding, Sr.

The incomparable singer died in Los Angeles, California on April 20 at age 72.

Generation X, next and milennials may regard him as the father of two celebrated Hollywood thespians — Cuba Jr., his Academy Award winning son and Omar, an equally accomplished actor who received critical acclaim debuting in the film “Baby Boy.”

But prior to their birth, the senior Gooding amassed celebrity status and was nationally celebrated as a “soul singer.”

Gooding Sr. found fast fame fronting a trio renowned as the Main Ingredient. Born April 27, 1944 in the Bronx, the ambitious singer grew up with Tony Sylvester, Luther Simmons, Jr. and McPherson in Harlem. Sylvester, Simmons and McPherson formed the group the Poets, a group that evolved to become the Insiders and later the Main Ingredient.

Gooding worked with the group as a backup singer, but when McPherson became too sick to tour, Gooding sang lead during live concerts.

McPherson was diagnosed with leukemia and died on July 4, 1971.

As fate would have it, Gooding proved to be the main ingredient steering the group to garner several gold singles, including “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely,” “Happiness is Just Around the Bend,” “Rolling Down a Mountainside” “Superwoman,” “Spinning Around, I Must be falling In Love,” “Summer Breeze,” “I’m So Proud” and their highest-charting hit with 1972’s “Everybody Plays the Fool.”

The single held the number two spot on the R&B chart for three weeks and scored doubly hitting the number three slot on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart selling more than a million copies.

Had his immigrant father lived to witness his son’s success he probably would have been ecstatic with pride.

Reportedly, Barbados-born Dudley MacDonald Gooding died when Cuba was just 11 years old. Allegedly the Caribbean native spoke seven languages and defined himself as a Pan-African advocate, loyal to Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

According to reports, the avowed African nationalist “fled his native Barbados to escape servitude in 1936.”

Determined to elude the national obligation he made his way to Cuba, where he immersed himself into activism related to the Garvey movement.

While on the Spanish island he married a native Cuban.

Life was ideal for a time, however, soon afterwards his bride was murdered reportedly it was because of the couple’s political activity.

Reportedly, before she died, while on her death-bed, the devoted husband promised her he would name his first son Cuba after her homeland.

Soon after her death, Dudley — Gooding Sr.’s father — moved to Harlem. That was 1937.

He met and later married Addie Alston.

They lived in the Bronx and together they had one son, Cuba.

“He spent a lot of time in Cuba, and he loved the country.”

A decade after his father’s death, Cuba found his passion and love. It was music.

Booked to perform at the Apollo Theater and other New York hot-spots, the Main Ingredients led by Cuba Gooding joined the ranks of the most elite rhythm & blues groups — the Stylistics, the Intruders, Chi-lites, Persuaders, Delphonics, Spinners, O’Jays, the Manhattans and others.

Music lovers that discovered the unique and soothing voice that powered the suave and romantic trio also knew that the distinctive lead singer defined the brand distinctly American, uniquely Black and superlatively significant to a genre of global envy.

With Gooding at the helm, the group was regarded among the best.

While harmony provided the mainstay for appeal to rhythm and blues performers, it was Gooding’s impeccable and distinctive vocal delivery that defined the group.

They worked with Stevie Wonder and the best producers of the era.

To fans there was only one Cuba Gooding — no senior nor junior.

At age 22 Cuba married singer Shirley Sullivan.

They moved to California.

It was there he realized he had to add “senior” to his name.

His first son, Cuba Jr. quickly emerged a star after debuting as an actor in the movie “Boyz in the Hood.”

He won an Academy Award for his supporting role in the film “Jerry McGuire” and emerged a box-office success.

The actor recently portrayed O.J. Simpson in the TV miniseries depicting the demise of the former football superstar.

The couple also parented Omar, an actor who made his debut in the film “Baby Boy.”

The Goodings are also parents to Tommy, a musician and April, an actress and comedian.

The singer and his wife Shirley parted in 1974 but remarried in 1995 and spent their honeymoon in Barbados.

The lead singer took hiatus from the famed group in 1977. During that period he released two solo albums but reunited with them two years later.

Cuba Jr. said as a child he enjoyed watching his father work and was proud of his celebrity. He spoke nostalgically about how his father often encouraged him to join him on-stage.

“It was a lot of feeling like, “I come from royalty’.”

In his later years, Gooding Sr. tried his hand at acting in a few small roles and even released a new single titled “Politics” in 2007. The song was played during the 2009 inaugural ball.

Allegedly he was also working on a film project titled “Everybody Plays the Fool: The Cuba Gooding Story” which aimed to highlight three generations of his family: Dudley Gooding, Cuba Gooding Sr., Cuba Gooding Jr. and Omar Gooding.

Gooding Sr. died one week before his 73rd birthday.

He was found slumped over in his silver Jaguar, which was parked on a street in Woodland Hills, California.

Autopsy results are pending.

Forty-nine-year old Cuba Jr. was in Toronto, Canada on a film set when he received news of the tragedy.

The Oscar winner posted a throwback photo of an album of his father’s best selling hits on social media.

Alongside the album cover he wrote “eternal.”

Catch You On The Inside!