He was born at the height of WWII in April 1944 in London, England. Growing up, Goodman was more interested in football than dancing. At the encouragement of a friend, the 14-year-old lad attended the Court School of Dancing in Welling, England. Goodman only mildly enjoyed the experience; at 15, he dropped out of school to become a welder. He worked on the docks as an engineering apprentice until he was about 20 years old. It was at that time that he was injured playing sports and was advised by his doctor to take up ballroom dancing as a form of rehabilitation. Shortly after returning to dance school, Goodman began competing and winning numerous competitions. Specializing in Latin and a form of Ballroom called "Exhibition" dancing, Goodman won the British Exhibition four times. In his late twenties, he retired from professional dancing after winning the British Championships at the prestigious Blackpool Dance Festival in England. Goodman then turned his attention to teaching aspiring dancers at his own dance school in Kent, England. In the 1970s and '80s, his dance school attracted a lot of local youth, particularly during its weekly Saturday night discos. In the 1990s, Goodman traveled all over the world, judging dance competitions and giving lectures.
In 2004, Goodman's career experienced resurgence after he starred on the hit reality competition series "Strictly Come Dancing" (BBC, 2004- ) as its head judge. Due to the show's overwhelming success, an American version of the show premiered the following year on ABC called "Dancing with the Stars." Goodman became a household name across the pond as the show's head judge, alongside American dancer and choreographer Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli, an Italian choreographer and TV personality. Like its British counterpart, which Goodman simultaneously judged, "Dancing with the Stars" paired celebrities with professional dancers to win audience votes and be declared dancing champions. On the show, Goodman was often the voice of reason; the wise sage giving no-nonsense critiques of the performances of the dancing hopefuls. More than anyone else on the panel, celebrities and their professional partners yearned for a glowing review from Goodman. In March 2009, Goodman was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He kept the news a secret until July 2009, when he made a public announcement that he had undergone surgery for the disease.