Cuba Gooding Sr. isn't playing the fool 

click to enlarge Cuba Gooding Sr.
  • Courtesy photo
  • Cuba Gooding Sr. and the Main Ingredient bring their old-school show to Yoshi's today.

Cuba Gooding Sr. has been looking forward to returning at long last to the Bay Area with his 1970s hit-making band the Main Ingredient.

The last time they were in town was a memorable 1997 gig at Kimball's East in Emeryville, Gooding says via phone from his home in Florida.

"Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr. were in the audience. We blew the roof off the sucker!" adds the performer, appearing today at Yoshi's in The City.

Asked if he ever gets tired of singing signature tunes "Everybody Plays the Fool" and "Just Don't Want to Be Lonely," he responds, "Do you get tired of eating? Do you get tired of getting a good night's sleep?"

At 69, Gooding is in great voice and great shape ("I look the same age as Cuba Gooding Jr.," he jokes), thanks to his late father, a man of West Indian descent who taught him important lessons about maintaining good health and understanding that the power of a good song is in a strong melody and lyric.

Gooding is named in memory of his father's late first wife, who was slain in Cuba, where the couple lived before the elder Gooding moved to New York.

When he grew up in Harlem, Gooding says, it was a place where, if you were black, "You would be either a gangster or entertainer."

His misses the old-fashioned entertainment of the Cotton Club and Apollo, and says the Main Ingredient originally fashioned itself after the Rat Pack: "We sing, we do stories, we tell jokes, tell a little story."

But Gooding doesn't just perform at concerts, he's also a promoter and spokesman for the REACH Foundation, a nonprofit serving children in need of physical, educational, social and financial assistance.

He also stays busy following his famous kids' careers: Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. is on Broadway with Vanessa Williams and Tony Award winner Cicely Tyson in "The Trip to Bountiful," and Omar Gooding has his cable TV show "Family Times."

Yet Gooding credits his longevity in what can be a tough industry to having fairly good sense about the business ("Every month a check comes") and staying true to his kind of music.

"There's a slot for revolution songs," he says. "I don't do those."

Audiences at Main Ingredient shows will hear about positive things, and loving one another. Says Gooding: "We are supposed to make you forget about your problems. You will forget you married the wrong man — or woman."


The Main Ingredient featuring Cuba Gooding Sr.

Where: Yoshi's, 1330 Fillmore St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. today

Tickets: $26 to $40

Contact: (415) 655-5600,

About The Author

Leslie Katz

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