The Rascals – People Got To Be Free

A positive message and a positive message. This song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100 in1968. Rascals co-leaders Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati wrote the song together. The Young Rascals  / The Rascals had had 6 top ten hits in their career. The record sold over 4 million copies.

Felix Cavaliere on writing the song

I was working for Bobby Kennedy’s (presidential) campaign, and you know that Robert Kennedy got assassinated. I just felt compelled to say something. The record company didn’t really like the idea, but they let it [be released as a single] and it became number one in all the places that were oppressed, such as South Africa, Berlin and Hong Kong, So I was always very proud of that. [Writing this song] was a direct result of the assassination. In my eyes, Bobby Kennedy was an idealistic person who had visions for how our country should be, and his brother (John Kennedy) as well. So I was attracted very much to that. I just thought that it would be a good direction for me, and the United States of America.

From Songfacts.

This song has a message that resonated loud and clear in 1968:

All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free

Freedom lost a champion on April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down, and when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, it was dealt another devastating blow. 

Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals wrote this song in reaction to those murders, condensing King and Kennedy’s message into a simple missive calling for unity and understanding. It’s hard to argue with the song’s message, as it’s not overtly political and doesn’t lash out at any person or organization in particular. Combined with an uptempo rock groove, it had all the makings of a hit.

Felix Cavaliere claimed that he had to fight for this song, since Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records was worried that a message song would hurt the Rascals’ career. Cavaliere prevailed and the song became the group’s biggest hit, reaching #1 in America in August 1968, where it remained for five weeks).

This was the third #1 hit for the group (after “Good Lovin'” and “Groovin””), but the first under their original name. In 1966-67 all their singles were credited to the “Young Rascals,” a name imposed upon them by Atlantic Records to avoid confusion with the Harmonica Rascals.

Their followup single, the #24 “A Ray of Hope,” was written for the Kennedy family after RFK’s death and prompted a thank-you letter from the fallen senator’s little brother, Ted.

People Got To Be Free

All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
Listen, please listen, that’s the way it should be
There’s peace in the valley, people got to be free

You should see
What a lovely, lovely world this’d be
Everyone learned to live together, ah hah
Seems to me
Such an itty bitty thing should be
Why can’t you and me learn to love one another?

All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free (wanna be free)
I can’t understand it, so simple to me
People everywhere just got to be free

If there’s a man
Who is down and needs a helpin’ hand
All it takes is you to understand and
To pull him through, ah hah
Seems to me
We got to solve it individually, ah ah
And I’ll do unto you what you do to me
Said, no

Hear the shoutin’ from the mountains on out to the sea
No two ways about it, people have to be free (they gotta be free)
Ask me my opinion, my opinion will be
Natural situation for a man to be free

Get right on board now, huh, huh

Yeah oh, what a feelin’s just come over me
Love can move a mountain, make a blind man see
Everybody sing it now come on let’s go see
Peace in the valley now, we all can be free

See that train over there?
Now that’s the train of freedom
It’s about to ‘arrive any minute, now
You know it’s been a long, long overdue
Look out ’cause it’s a’comin’ right on through
Ha, ha, yeah, ha, ha, yeah

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

One thought on “The Rascals – People Got To Be Free”

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