Cuba Gooding sang lead on hits by the Main Ingredient, including the gold singles "Everybody Plays the Fool" and their remake of "I Just Don't Want to Be Lonely." His sons, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Omar Gooding, are TV and film actors. Cuba Jr. has starred in such movies as Boyz 'N the Hood, A Few Good Men, Outbreak, Judgment Day, Men of Honor, Radio, American Gangster, and The Butler, and he won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role in Jerry Maguire. The senior Gooding's agile tenor worked well on the group's pop love songs and their inspirational-themed material, like "Shame on the World," "Rolling Down a Mountainside," and Brian Auger's "Happiness Is Just Around the Bend." Motown alumnus Leon Ware co-wrote two of their best tracks, "Rolling Down a Mountainside" and "Instant Love."
Gooding, born April 27, 1944 in New York City, grew up with Tony Sylvester, Luther Simmons, Jr., and Donald McPherson in Harlem. Sylvester, Simmons, and McPherson formed the vocal group the Poets in the mid-'60s. They released singles on legendary songwriter/production team Leiber & Stoller's Red Bird label: "Merry Christmas Baby" and "I'm Stuck on You." As the Insiders, the group signed with RCA Records and their label debut was the single "I'm Better Off Without You" b/w "I'm Just a Man," followed by "If You Had a Heart." Changing their name to the Main Ingredient, they began to have hits, starting with "You've Been My Inspiration," a remake of the Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions hit "I'm So Proud," "Spinning Around (I Must Be Falling in Love)," a cover of Bread's number one hit "Make It with You," and "Black Seeds Keep on Growing." McPherson sang lead on all the group's hits, but when he became too ill to tour, Gooding, who contributed background vocals on their records, sang lead during the Main Ingredient's live concerts. Though the group believed he would return, Donald McPherson died of leukemia on July 4, 1971.
With Cuba Gooding on lead vocals, the Main Ingredient had their first million-selling single with "Everybody Plays the Fool," which hit number three pop and held the number two R&B spot for two weeks on Billboard's charts in fall 1972. The follow-up, "You've Got to Take It (If You Want It)," was included on the album Bitter Sweet, which hit number ten R&B in summer 1972. Their next LP, Afrodisiac, peaked at number 16 R&B in spring 1973 and included their rendition of the Stevie Wonder song "Girl Blue." The group did two more Wonder tunes on the LP, "Superwoman" and "Where Were You When I Needed You"; all were recorded by Wonder on his Music of My Mind LP.
The Main Ingredient produced the 1974 LP Euphrates River, which included their second million-seller, a cover of Ronnie Dyson's 1973 hit "I Just Don't Want to Be Lonely" (number eight R&B, number ten pop); the sumptuous disco classic "Happiness Is Just Around the Bend," which bopped to number seven R&B; and "California My Way." Tony Sylvester left the group to become a record producer and Carl Thompkins joined the group. Teaming with arranger/producer Bert DeCoteaux as Tony "Champagne" Sylvester, he had hits with Sister Sledge ("Love Don't Go Through No Changes on Me"), Ben E. King ("Supernatural Thing" and "Do It in the Name of Love"), and Linda Lewis. Rolling Down a Mountainside was the title of their 1975 LP (number three R&B, spring 1975) and of the title track single that hit number seven R&B. The "Shame on the World" single peaked at number 20 R&B, while the Shame on the World LP made it to number 27 R&B in late 1975.
In 1977, Gooding signed as a solo artist with Motown Records. Amid much anticipation and critical raves, his solo debut, The 1st Album, produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter (Tavares, the Four Tops), was released in spring 1978 with only one single, "Mind Pleaser," charting number 91 R&B in spring 1978. Another Motown LP, Love Dancer, produced by Michael Lovesmith, was issued in spring 1979.
Gooding re-teamed with Sylvester and Simmons, recording the Main Ingredient LPs Ready for Love (RCA, fall 1980) and the Patrick Adams-produced I Only Have Eyes for You (RCA, late 1981). Gooding recorded a remake of "Happiness Is Just Around the Bend" for Streetwise Records, which became a huge dance hit in late 1983. Simmons left the act and was replaced by Jerome Jackson, with the group recording the 1989 Polydor album I Just Wanna Love You.
Aaron Neville's cover of "Everybody Plays the Fool" hit number eight pop in summer 1991, and by happenstance rejuvenated interest in the Main Ingredient's original version and Gooding's career. Gooding released another solo album in 1993, Meant to Be in Love. In early 2000, Gooding toured in the inspirational/gospel play Be Careful What You Pray For with Shirley Murdock and David Peaston, and he also performed in venues as Cuba Gooding, Sr. and the Main Ingredient. A new Gooding album, Begin with the Family, arrived in 2004, the year of the singer's 60th birthday. In April 2017, Gooding was found dead in a car parked in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles; he was 72 years old.