Cuba Gooding Sr.’s been singing “Everybody Plays the Fool” since 1972.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t sing a new tune, as he’ll demonstrate Saturday when he joins Las Vegas-based band Soul on Fire at The Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz for an evening of new music — along with a revamped, 42-years-later version of “Everybody Plays the Fool” they plan to record following Saturday’s Cabaret Jazz show.
“It’s such a great song,” Gooding, 70, says in a telephone interview from his home base in Florida, recalling the Grammy-nominated tune he — and the two other members of the Main Ingredient — took to No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
(If you remember the lyrics, and you probably do, sing along: “Everybody plays the fool sometime, there’s no exception to the rule. It may be factual, it may be cruel … everybody plays the fool.”)
As for a remake, “that idea’s been floating around for years,” Gooding notes. “We now have to attempt to raise the bar,” he says of the new version with Soul on Fire. “As long as it’s pleasing to the ear, we should be able to pull it off.”
His collaboration with the Las Vegas-based group also includes new material, including a song titled “Saying Goodbye,” written by Soul on Fire leader Nephi Oliva — whose “day job,” as owner of Nevada Pigeon Control, is “how I support my music habit,” explains the singer, songwriter and pianist.
Cuba Gooding Sr.’s most famous offspring may be his namesake, Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr.
But his oldest son, Thomas — Soul on Fire’s bass player — made the connection between his father and the Las Vegas band.
Gooding admits he never would have known of the band if his son wasn’t playing with it. He credits, “my brilliant first-born son” with enabling “Nephi to have found me.”
Earlier this year, Gooding joined Soul on Fire at the Palms’ recording studio to begin work on an album Oliva expects to be released in October.
“We like to think of him as the George Foreman of the music industry,” says Soul on Fire co-leader Dane Ngahuka, a Grammy-nominated sound engineer as well as musician and composer, in a separate interview with Oliva.
Initially, when Gooding joined the group at the Palms, “he tried to conduct the band,” Oliva recalls, but “we all said, ‘Forget that guy — let’s just play.’ ”
As Ngahuka jokes, “it was a coup.”
When Gooding Sr. “came back to check and see our progress,” the Soul on Fire musicians played an arrangement of “Everybody Plays the Fool” that sounded “a little more pop and country” than the original, Oliva notes.
Gooding Sr. responded positively to the changes, Oliva adds — and even more positively to “the first song I pitched to him,” telling Oliva “ ‘I love it, I want to cut it.’ ”
The veteran performer also “loved” Soul on Fire singers Toscha Comeaux, Theresa Peterson and Alexa Worthen.
“He gave ’em hell, though,” Oliva says of Gooding’s coaching, which reflects the musical standards of an earlier era.
As Gooding puts it, “I came from an era” where “the more of a twist that you could put to a good melody, the more you were applauded,” he explains. “It’s helped me remain a professional vocalist all these years” — even “in this day and age of redo and remake.”
And while Saturday’s Soul on Fire gig includes the revamped version of “Everybody Plays the Fool,” the focus is at least as much on the band’s original music — which blends a wide variety of influences, from soul to jazz to funk, pop and country.
“That’s where the magic starts,” Oliva says of the eclectic musical mix.
The group even has rap on one of our blues tunes, notes Ngahuka, who plays guitar and sings in Soul on Fire. (Rounding out the band: keyboardists Michael Clark and Matthew Pittman, trumpeter Mitch Gabel, saxophonists Russ Burt and Jeff Teczon and drummer Rick Powell.)
“We like to think of it as new oldies,” Oliva says of Soul on Fire’s music, citing the band’s potential audiences as “more sophisticated listeners” who “know what real music is.”
Bringing a ’70s favorite like “Everybody Plays the Fool” into the 21st century, Gooding points out, “creates a whole ’nother fan base, a whole ’nother demographic of music buyers.”
And by playing at The Smith Center, Oliva and Ngahuka hope Soul on Fire will find a different audience than they did when the group first performed at the Hard Rock in April.
April also marked Soul on Fire’s debut at The Smith Center’s intimate Cabaret Jazz, where they performed during the monthly Composers Showcase.
“We love the room,” Olivia says, explaining the reason for Saturday’s return.
Come September, however, Soul on Fire will be playing the Palms as part of a music industry showcase that Oliva and Ngahuka hope will connect performers with publishers and producers looking for new talent.
“The music industry is dead,” Oliva says. “It’s not dead because there’s no more interest in music. The business model is dead.”
Now, artists don’t need labels anymore to share their music with listeners, he contends.
“We want to empower the artist, to lead by example, (by) teaching artists to be managing their own careers,” he says.
For now, however, their focus remains on Saturday’s Cabaret Jazz gig.
And in Gooding’s view, “these guys have the talent to be bigger than any rock band.”
Gooding’s excited about their collaboration, Oliva says, “and not just because his son is in it. He recognized something — a little old with a little new.”
Contact reporter Carol Cling at email@example.com or 702-383-0272.