I am writing this tribute on Thursday, April 27 –– the birthday of Cuba Gooding Sr –– and I am writing it in a country that I like to think of as the spiritual home of Cuba Gooding Sr, the Caribbean island of Barbados, the birthplace of Cuba’s father, Dudley McDonald Gooding.
I am writing with the music of Cuba Gooding Snr and the Main Ingredient ringing in my ears and reverberating in my soul. Music of profound and divine beauty and integrity. Sensitive, intelligent and sophisticated music. Socially conscious music. Uplifting and positive music that is imbued with great wisdom and insight. Music capable of fostering Black pride, dignity and a sense of community!
And so, after feasting for years on such songs as Rolling Down The Mountainside, Happiness Is Just Around The Bend, Euphrates, and Black Seeds Keep On Growing, it did not surprise me to learn that Cuba Gooding Sr was the son of a great Pan-Africanist of a father –– a proud Bajan man who migrated to Cuba in 1936, and who, hand in hand with his courageous Cuban wife, stood up for the Black liberation principles of Marcus Garvey in pre-revolutionary racist Cuba, and suffered for the cause.
I would like it to be widely known that there are several of us in Barbados who are ardent admirers of the tremendous musical accomplishments of the late Cuba Gooding Snr. and who are extremely proud that his ancestral roots are to be found in our native land. Indeed, a few years ago, Mr Richard Stoute –– one of Barbados’ most accomplished veteran entertainers –– and I reached out to Cuba Gooding Sr in an attempt to bring him to Barbados in order to have him impact upon and influence the young and up-coming generation of Barbadian singers and entertainers.
The entire world has gotten to know one particular young Barbadian entertainer by the name of Rihanna, but there are many other equally talented young Barbadians. Richard Stoute and I considered that there could be no better international mentor and role model for the scores of young aspiring singers that Richard routinely trains and nurtures than the great Barbados-rooted lead singer of the Main Ingredient.
And so, with the help of Cuba’s Barbadian niece, Rhonda, we made contact with Cuba and discovered that he was enthusiastic about our project and was more than willing to come to Barbados and make a contribution to our Barbadian youth. But unfortunately, while Richard Stoute and I had the vision and understood just how much the great Cuba Gooding Sr could deliver to the young aspiring singers of Barbados, those in officialdom who controlled the resources necessary to make the project happen couldn’t quite see the light.
Now, with Cuba Gooding Sr’s tragic passing, we know that the project cannot take place in the way we had initially envisaged. But take place it must and will! You see, the sheer excellence of Cuba Gooding Sr’s vocal technique, the technical brilliance of the Main Ingredient’s recordings, and the outstanding artistic and social integrity of Gooding’s many classic songs, are resources that are far too rare and precious not to introduce and reintroduce –– again and again –– to generation after generation of young black musical artistes, whether they be in New York, USA; Kingston, Jamaica; Accra, Ghana; Johannesburg, South Africa or Bridgetown, Barbados.
Cuba Gooding Sr may have passed off this earthly realm, but he cannot really die. No artiste who has produced such a body of classic, ever-green work can ever really die. For if the work lives, then the artiste lives on as well –– in the hearts and souls and memories of living, breathing men and women.
We, the members of the patriotic, Black conscious, Pan-Africanist community of Barbados salute you, Cuba Gooding Sr We lift up your name. We lift up your music. We lift you up as an imperishable example for generations to come. Indeed, we respect and honour you as a “black seed” that will keep on growing, even into eternity.
(David Comissiong is president of the Clement Payne Movement of Barbados and chairman of the Caribbean Pan-African Network)