Cynthia Gooding 1924 – 1988
Cynthia Gooding was born in Rochester, Minnesota, in 1924. Her childhood was spent in Rochester, Lake Forest, Illinois, and other small cities in the mid-west. In her teens, she went to live in Mexico City, where she learned that she loved music, and that she was able to sing. After leaving Mexico, she moved to New York City, to develop her musical career. Cynthia was a great fan of the blues, and, after hearing Josh White play, she decided that she wanted to study with him. After many conversations, Josh decided that he would take her on. Cynthia realized that she didn’t have the voice, or the life to sing the blues, but she appreciated the true feelings that blues music conveyed, and she strove to meet those challenges in her interpretations of old English, Turkish, Spanish, and Italian songs. To Cynthia, the thing about the music was the withheld emotion that a singer could make a listener feel.
Cynthia started gigging in New York in the mid 1940’s. At that time, it was almost unheard of for a woman to appear alone with a guitar, on stage. She had long standing appearances at the Soho, a club in Greenwich Village. She was also a favorite at Gerde’s Folk City, and other venues around the city. In those days, many clubs gave their musicians long standing contracts, so that they could appear, for many months at the same venue. In that way, Cynthia came to develop a following. In 1949 she married Hasan Ozbekhan, from Istanbul, Turkey. He taught her many of the Turkish songs that she sings on her albums. At this point, Jack Holzman and Leonard Ripley started Elektra records, and she was one of the first musicians that they recorded. Cynthia went on to record a dozen albums for Elektra and other labels.
After their divorce, Cynthia continued to tour around the country. She often traveled with her 2 daughters in tow.
Cynthia’s best known for her interview with Bob Dylan on WBAI, in 1962. During the previous years, she had established a presence at WBAI, with her shows, Cynthia and Sensible, and Cynthia’s choice. Cynthia made many recordings around the village and the city in general, as research and actual material for her shows.
Cynthia’s interpretation of her music was as elegant as her appearance. She was a tall woman, 6 feet 2 inches, and very slender. She collected music for her concerts from any where that she could, often referring to the Groves Music Dictionary, and other great music collectors in the 40’s and 50’s.
In 1962, Cynthia retired from the music business, to go to Spain to write and listen to music. While living in Spain, she collected wonderful examples of Flamenco. Cynthia was rarely without her tape recorder, and became friends with such Flamenco luminaries as Juan Talega, and Diego de Gastor.
Upon returning to the states, in 1964, she settled in Princeton, New Jersey, continued her writing, and then in 1968 thru 1970 (?) she traveled with the National Humanities Series, (Endowed by the National Endowment for the Arts.) a group formed to spread culture throughout the United States.
Cynthia continued to perform sporadically throughout the 1970’s. She died in Kingston, New Jersey, in 1988.