Photo Courtesy of Felix Cavaliere
You know you can’t feel too sad once the opening bars of “Groovin’” start to play. It’s classic rock that instantaneously delivers a huge dose of feel-good. And that’s exactly what Felix Cavaliere intended when he co-wrote the song in the mid-1960s as a founding member of The Rascals rock band. Now, five decades later, Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals will bring the band’s distinctively joyful sounds alive—from “Good Lovin’” to “People Got to Be Free”—at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17, at The Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center on the Montgomery College Rockville campus.
It may be 50 years since The Rascals had a string of No. 1 hits on the airwaves, but Cavaliere’s motivation in performing remains the same. “I’ve always looked to the bright side of things and people responded to that,” he said. “There are all kinds of stories to tell, but I like to bring people upwards. Personally, when I go to a show or read a book, I want an element of hope.”
Cavaliere formed The Young Rascals, as the band was originally known, in 1965 with musicians Dino Danelli, Eddie Brigati and Gene Cornish. A pre-med student at Syracuse University at the time, Cavaliere dropped out to pursue his love of rock and roll.
“My family were basically all health professionals, but they didn’t challenge my decision,” he said. “My mom noticed my musical talent by age 5 and had pushed me into training in classical music. She was ahead of her time and, bless her, supported my starting a band while I was still in college.”
Atlantic Records soon signed the band, and now simply called The Rascals, they produced a string of hits between 1966 and 1968—to include “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” “A Girl Like You” and “A Beautiful Morning.”
Just 20 years old when he wrote “How Can I Be Sure,” Cavaliere still performs the tender ballad that countless artists have covered due to its timeless appeal. “I’m proud of that song,” he said. “I was engaged to a girl, she was my muse and I loved her enormously, but still that song captures that big question mark all youths who are in love struggle with.”
After several successful albums, the band disbanded in 1972 and members moved on to their own pursuits. Cavaliere continues to write and produce solo albums. He moved to Nashville in the 1980s, and now tours with talented musicians from his adopted hometown. “I’m a child of the ‘60s, when the goal was to come up with something new,” he said. “I moved to Nashville because that creative side is still alive and well here. It’s a mecca for people who want to write and make music,” he said.
His touring performances, however, focus on the music he made in the 1960s. “I want to please the audience who expects to hear the music from before my solo career,” he said. “I have a winning formula. Between the music and the videos and images that are part of the performance, I bring people back to a very special time.”
A time, he said, when youth were united in their love of rock and roll. “In the 1960s, we were connected by our music—not by the Internet or social media or iPhones. The show brings back that feeling of togetherness.”
Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, the original band members have occasionally performed together at special events. The last time was in 2014, and having their wives on the scene made for a peaceful reunion. “You can’t act like a jerk in front of your women,” Cavaliere said. “It just proves how important women are to the peace on this planet.”
Cavaliere counts himself lucky that fans still find joy in the music he helped create decades ago. There is one regret, however, that Cavaliere still thinks about—a fateful decision made by The Rascal’s management.
“Our manager opted out of having us perform at Woodstock,” he said. “He thought it would be a chaotic and uncomfortable event, which is true, but we lost out on performing at the most important concert of our times. We missed out being part of that history.”
The 50th Anniversary Tour of Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals concert will start at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at Montgomery College’s Robert Parilla Performing Arts Center, 51 Mannakee St., Rockville. Tickets are $50 and $60; $40 and $50 for faculty, staff and seniors; and $35 and $45 for students with ID. Visit www.montgomercollege.edu/pac.