Cuba Gooding, Sr.: No Exception

Cuba Gooding, Sr. definitely has many things to be proud of. He has over 40 years of entertainment on his astute resume, including being a member of the legendary soul group The Main Ingredient. He is the doting father of Cuba Gooding, Jr., who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1997, and two other offspring in the entertainment industry, Omar and April. Time has taught the elder Gooding a plethora of lessons, but all of them pale in comparison to that pure and honest love that many of us forever seek to find.

As quick as he is to tell you that he is not hurting for anything from a materialistic standpoint, he is also quick to describe his need to be humble and how he has fallen short along the way. On his latest album, Begin With The Family, Cuba talks about those shortcomings and how things begin and end on the home front. In a conversation with Alternatives, he brings those ideas to the front again, dropping knowledge that only four decades in one industry can provide. Alternatives: Allow me to preface this by saying that I am very excited about having this conversation with you, sir.

Cuba Gooding, Sr: I want you to know that this is a privilege [for me]. My son Omar should be on the line to know that you even care about what I have to say. He’s a young rapper and an actor as well. He’s more of an actor, but he’s a good rapper, too. Did you see him in Playmakers on ESPN?

AHHA: Yes I did. He played his character to a tee. It is a shame that ESPN decided to cancel it due to politics and the imagery that was portrayed.

CG: The NFL would like us to believe that their athletes are holier than thou, unless they have an OJ situation. That is so hypocritical. When I was in the middle of my career, I tried to find out how I can contribute to the righteousness that the rappers were doing. I’m not talking about the negative things like gangbanging or something like that. I’m talking about rappers like Tupac that did songs about their mother. I wanted to find out how I could contribute when I came out as a singer. It took me three years to come up with Begin With The Family. When I found out that Tupac liked Frank Sinatra and The Main Ingredient, I said to myself, ‘My god, I have a responsibility to come out with a statement.’

AHHA: With 40 years of entertainment on your resume, that is an awful lot of responsibility that you have had to carry.

CG: One of the main reasons that a lot of youngsters that came up behind me struck out with regard to humanity and goodness is because of me, The Chi-Lites, The Delphonics, and The Temptations. We were artists that were happening in the early 70’s, and we didn’t stay in the communities and try to help the youngsters, man. A lot of us came out of our neighborhoods, moved to California, went overseas and tried to earn a living because we weren’t getting paid by the record companies. We knew we weren’t going to get paid based on the percentages that they were paying us. Tupac wouldn’t have talked about killing nobody if he had known that making love was real good like it was as I knew it was. I knew it was real good because I had Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Jackie Wilson.

Now that I have new CD, I’ve tried my best to make statements that will help my family, realizing that we are all that each other has when the demons come in and try to turn us against each other. Youngsters that are able to procreate have to realize the responsibility that they have. My wife and I had no clue that we were going to give birth to only the sixth African-American to win an Academy Award. We didn’t know that Omar was going to do Playmakers. We didn’t know our daughter, April, was going to be a comedienne. Everyone needs to know that we must pay attention to our business regiment and leave this world a better place than it was when we came into it.

AHHA: That is definitely a responsibility that all of us take for granted everyday.

CG: That’s what I’m about. Omar and Cuba are actors. I’m an actor, too, but with melody and lyric. There is no difference between us. We do it in one way, they do it in another way, and we are making statements to make our children and our children’s children stronger. [I want to] sing a song that makes a difference so that young people that tomorrow is not bleak. There is hope. Hopelessness is not a word, a song, or a theme. Hopelessness means that you’ve already died. People that are breathing always have a chance. That’s what Begin With The Family is about. If I get an opportunity to pass along to keep someone as young as you from having babies, I’ll do it.

AHHA: Well, you are too late with me. I am a married man with five kids. [laughs]

CG: I thought that Cuba, Jr. should have been in The Main Ingredient. Wouldn’t that have been a tragedy? He would have been singing, going up and down the road, and not getting paid on the chitlin’ circuit when he can become an Oscar award winner.

AHHA: That is what parenting is all about. You have to make sure that your children do not go through the same struggles as you went through.

CG: That’s what it’s about. I’m not preaching or teaching. I’m not saying don’t make love [to] or chase your woman. What I’m saying is keep in the back of your mind that I had no idea that I was doing the right thing to create Cuba, Jr. I ain’t got a clue or a formula, but whatever it is that I did, it was right. Joe Jackson and I are in a movie called Destination Fame. Him being Michael Jackson’s father, and me being Cuba Jr.’s father - we went two separate ways. But, he did all he could to try to make his children successful. He did it the right way, and I did it the right way. He may not be as happy as me, and I may not be as happy as him, but we were parents. No matter what we had to do, we had to be parents first.

AHHA: Are some of these same ideals featured on your album also?

CG: I got a song called ‘Nevertheless’. This man’s woman ran off and did the wild thing. She came back and said, ‘Baby, I made a mistake. Can I come home?’ The song is about nevertheless, I’ll take you back in a minute. Men can’t say that except with music. I had no way of telling my woman that I was proud of her. She said I didn’t respect, care about or appreciate her. I didn’t realize how important the spoken word to melody is to the average human being. That’s what country western, Hispanic, and rap music is all about. Rap will never go away if you and I can figure out a way to marry a Cuba Gooding and a Luther Vandross to a Jay-Z and a P-Diddy. If we do that, no one will ever be able to rob us.

AHHA: What people fail to realize is that marriage is already happening.

CG: It is happening right before our eyes. Did you know Alicia Keys sampled my voice on ‘You Don’t Know My Name’? I’ll take the check, but you mean to tell me that she couldn’t find five or six people to sing my melody? She wanted the ambiance of what we were feeling. If we all get together and if I can have some success by God’s graces and your assistance, hopefully I can do something with Jay-Z or Ice Cube. Ice Cube and Ice-T [are not] just actors; they are in this, you understand? This is ours. The melody and lyric is what we control. Quincy Jones tried to pull everyone together with ‘We Are The World’, but he didn’t do it right. We need to think about singing and rapping together so that people in Iowa, Idaho, and Ohio will love it for the artwork that it is.

AHHA: We need to take it a step further than that, sir. We need to get these same ideals overseas as well. Did you know that there are people who cannot speak any English at all, but can recite a rap song word for word? They don’t understand what they are saying, but they know that they love it.

CG: I went to Thailand with Omar for four days because he is over there shooting a movie. People came up to me screaming, ‘I got sunshine on a cloudy day! I would ask them how they learned that song, and they could not answer me in English. They didn’t know English, but they could sing ‘Everybody Plays The Fool’. If we are that important to the entire planet, mere American politics should not stop us from joining each other in the race for harmony amongst human beings. We don’t have to kill everybody just to get along - we just have to get along with everybody so that we don’t have to kill.