‘People Got to Be Free,’ The Rascals

The cover of The Rascals' single, "People Got to Be Free."

The cover of The Rascals’ 1968 single, “People Got to Be Free.”

In late August 1968, when all hell was breaking loose at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the No. 1 song in the country was the fervent social anthem, “People Got to Be Free,” by The Rascals.

The band had formed, as The Young Rascals, in Garfield, just a few years previously, and already had had a number of hits, though never with a song as socially conscious as “People Got to Be Free.”

The song, written by group members Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, remains, to this day, the band’s most indelible hit. Yet it was their last time in the Top 20 — something no one would have predicted at the time, since there were there so often (nine times) between ’66 and ’68.

They broke up in 1972, but 40 years later, Felix Cavaliere, Brigati, Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli reunited for a combined concert/theatrical show called “The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream,” which toured nationally and also had a limited engagement on Broadway.

Below is a dynamic 1969 TV performance of “People Got to Be Free.”

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.


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