Gene Cornish. Photo courtesy of the artist. Used with permission.

UPDATE: Blurred Culture would like to wish Gene Cornish a speedy recovery from his recent on-stage collapse in Montana. Get well soon, Gene!




LOS ANGELES, CA- When I found out that I would have an opportunity to interview Felix Cavaliere, my heart skipped a beat. Cavaliere, whose musical genius with the Rascals created such monster hits as “People Got to Be Free” and “Good Lovin’” in the 60s, is back on the road.

Having toured with various permutations of his band over the years, he is currently performing as Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish’s Rascals, featuring Carmine Appice on drums. In describing the origin and vision for this tour, Cavaliere describes Hawaiian fans clamoring for one more tour and diplomatically sidesteps any serious discussion of band politics. (Though perhaps more of those dynamics will be described in his upcoming book.)

Felix Cavaliere. Photo courtesy of the artist. Used with permission.
Felix Cavaliere. Photo courtesy of the artist. Used with permission.

He explains that he reached out to his old bandmates but that only Cornish was on board; former writing partner Eddie Brigati has his own one-man show, and Dino Danelli is now busy with his painting. To fill the gaps, the Rascals will be joined by Appice of Vanilla Fudge. Cavaliere also emphasizes that this tour includes horns, which will add a new level of richness to the music.

The Rascals’ dreamy 60s sound — earnest bliss with a side of social consciousness — still feels fresh today. Given their 50-year history with these songs, however, it’s easy to imagine the performers growing bored with the tunes. Cavaliere explains that performing live allows them to expand on the original recordings while still staying true to the songs and pleasing the fans. Freed from the strict time limits imposed on songs in the 60s, they can add solos and nuances that keep the music fresh for both performers and audiences.

Asked about favorite songs to play live, Cavaliere again takes a diplomatic approach. “Seriously, the songs are kind of like your children, you know? And you enjoy them all at different times… For example, ‘Beautiful Morning’ is always a great song to play when the weather is great outside… ‘People Got to Be Free’ is always a great song because of the tremendous turmoil that our world is going through. ‘Good Lovin’’ always gets the people up dancing and singing, so that’s always fun.”  

Reflecting back on the heyday of the Rascals, he describes the environment that allowed the band to thrive creatively:

“The Atlantic organization provided a bunch of guys a great platform to make music… They made it so easy for us because, for example, we had free studio time, which is unheard of today. We were completely in charge of the production, and I think that… atmosphere that they created, created happy, wonderful music… Instead of being under… tremendous pressure to create hits and tremendous pressure to… adhere to the rules of the game, they let us do whatever we wanted. And I think that comes out in the in the music. I think it’s felt by the people.”

Throughout the conversation, Cavaliere emphasizes his ongoing joy in playing with the Rascals. He says, “it’s just great to see people still enjoying the music after all these years.” He also seeks new outlets for his music, including a recent performance with the Nashville Symphony that he describes effusively. In fact, he sings the praises of Nashville in general, describing it as “a real… Mecca for creativity in the music business, and not just country music” where he moved to seek out a collaborative environment including work with young musicians. He’s inspired, too, by world music — seeking out songs from Africa, India, and the Middle East. For him, “it’s just really kind of a treat to hear what’s going on in the other parts of the world.”

No conversation with Felix Cavaliere can ignore the social justice component of the Rascals’ history. Having insisted that the band share the stage with African American groups at a time when that was a serious political statement with career consequences, the Rascals walked the walk. Describing frustration with the current state of affairs in the US, Cavaliere emphasizes the ongoing power of music to bring people together and the importance — for both performers and audiences — in reaching across demographic groups.

This tour allows him to continue reaching out to people live. “What we do is to bring everybody together just the way [we were] together in the old days…Our generation really communicated through the music. We knew, for example, when our English friends were in love, when they were in trouble… if they wrote about it in their song. I try to do that and create that with the audience.”

Ultimately, our conversation about performing with the Rascals in their 6th decade can be summed up by one of Cavaliere’s comments: “You know if you don’t enjoy it, you really shouldn’t do it, but it is really fun.” We’re looking forward to seeing Cavaliere and Cornish on tour and dancing along because at the core, that’s what their music is. Beautiful, earnest — and fun.  

Follow Felix Cavaliere & Gene Cornish’s Rascals on Facebook.