More than five years after The Rascals reunited for the Once Upon a Dream biographical concert productions, singer-keyboardist Felix Cavaliere sums up the experience with the same pointed sincerity that’s featured in his band’s signature hits.
“It was a pretty good idea,” he says from Nashville, Tennessee. “And I think it was pretty nice to do something like that at this stage of our lives instead of quarreling.”
While in Hawaii in 2017, Cavaliere was inspired to look into whether he could resume the good musical vibes with singer Eddie Brigati, guitarist Gene Cornish and drummer Dino Danelli.
“I was there for two shows on the islands, and The Rascals were huge on the islands,” Cavaliere says. “And I was asked so many times to bring them back one more time if I could get everybody together.”
Upon returning to the mainland, Cavaliere called Brigati, who said he was involved in a project with Steven Van Zandt (who produced and directed the Once Upon a Dream shows). Cornish said yes to doing some concerts, and when Danelli expressed that he was “more interested in being a painter than playing drums right now,” as Cavaliere puts it, they reached out to Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge fame.
Without the participation of the animated Brigati, Cavaliere admits that “we need some vocal help,” but he’s quick to add that “some really good guys who all grew up with the music” have been lined up to sing with him.
When Cavaliere and Cornish hit the stage on July 20 for the second scheduled show of their brief tour, it will mark 50 years to the day that “People Got to be Free” made its Billboard Hot 100 debut en route to becoming The Rascals’ third No. 1 hit.
“I was working for Robert Kennedy’s [presidential] campaign at the time, and I was seeing a woman who was there when he was assassinated [in Los Angeles],” Cavaliere says. “I just became overwhelmed with emotion, and I wrote that song.”
When he brought the song back home to New York, Cavaliere says “it was pretty much all done. Eddie had a flair [for] sweeter words, and he cleaned up a couple of lines.”
Despite The Rascals’ success up to that point, Cavaliere needed to talk Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler into releasing “People Got to be Free” as a single.
“He gave me a hard time,” Cavaliere recalls. “He said, ‘Why are you getting involved in this stuff?’ I said, ‘What stuff? What are you talking about? People should be free all over the planet. It’s got nothing to do with one [political] party or another.’ And he said, ‘Why rock the tree, man?’
“I had nothing but respect for the man, and he had his voice and opinion, but in this case he was wrong. Because that song became No. 1, and even more important is where it became No. 1, such as places that were suppressed — in those days, Berlin and Hong Kong. So I’ve always been really proud of that.
“You make music, and mostly the music is for joy and pleasure and entertainment,” adds Cavaliere. “But once in a while, you should stand your ground and say, ‘This is how I think. … I have an opinion, and I want to say it.’ ”
— By Chris M. Junior
Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish’s Rascals on tour (schedule subject to change):
• July 18: Wednesday Night Live at Columbus Park — Stamford, Connecticut
• July 20: NYCB Theatre at Westbury — Westbury, New York
• Aug. 16: The Birchmere — Alexandria, Virginia
• Aug. 24: The City National Grove of Anaheim — Anaheim, California
• Aug. 25: Mountain Winery — Saratoga, California
• Sept. 9: Hard Rock Rocksino — Northfield, Ohio
• Sept. 21: Mayo Center for the Performing Arts — Morristown, New Jersey
• Sept. 22: Park Theatre/RI Center for the Performing Arts — Cranston, Rhode Island
• Oct. 21: RWJ Barnabas Health Arena — Toms River, New Jersey
• Oct. 25: The Ridgefield Playhouse — Ridgefield, Connecticut
• Oct. 26: Town Hall — New York
• Oct. 27: Lynn Auditorium — Lynn, Massachusetts
• Nov. 4: Louisville Palace Theatre — Louisville, Kentucky