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People Got to Be Free


The Rascals

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was written in reaction to the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. The song obtained a double meaning when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated before the single was released.
Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records briefly blocked the single's release as he thought the Rascals' career would be hurt by a political record. He was partly right: although "People Got to Be Free" was the group's biggest hit (#1 for five weeks), it was also their last Top Ten single.
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. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL, for all above)
The Rascals
More The Rascals songs
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More songs inspired by Martin Luther King

Comments (10):

On July 14th 1968, "People Got To Be Free" by the Rascals entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #64; and on August 11th, 1968 it peaked at #1 (for 5 weeks) and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 8 of those 14 weeks it was on the Top 10) ...
And on August 26th, 1968 it also reached #1 (for 1 week) on the Canadian RPM 100 Singles chart...
In it's 2nd, 3rd, & 4th week at #1 prevented "Born To Be Wild" by Steppenwolf from reaching #1, for those three weeks it was at #2; but they got some revenge, in Canada it was "Born To Be Wild" that knocked "People Got To Be Free" out of the top spot on the RPM 100 chart.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Dionne Warwick made a scintillating gospel-tinged cover of this song on her LP Soulful and People Got To Be Free was released as a single in 1968.
- magicman, brighton, United Kingdom
I don't understand some of the comments at the top. This isn't much of a "political" song. It's another "peace, love, harmony" song, and there were dozens and dozens of them at the time. It doesn't seem controversial at all.

However, this is all in hindsight. A lot of things that were controversial back then aren't the least bit controversial now.
- MrCleaveland, Cleveland,
This song impacted me powerfully when it was released and it still does today! It States God's desire for our lives and how God calls us to help lift others. It describes our essential purpose on earth.
Galatians 5:13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.
- John, Carlsbad, NM
No 7 Oct 1968, Top 10 Singles, source Billboard hits of 20 years ago this week Oct 8, 1988
- Donna, College Station, TX
Great, Great, Great song. Beautiful in its simplicity, divine in its timelessness.
- Sarah, Kennewick, WA
The song is about the "CHRISTIAN BORN AGAIN EXPERIENCE" experience. The words to the last verse are scriptural, paraphrased right out of the Bible. Oh, what a feelin's just come over me
Enough to move a mountain, make a blind man see
Everybody's dancin', come on, let's go see
Peace in the valley, now they want to be free . . .
Anybody ever notice the similarity with "Candida" sung by Dawn (vocals: Tony Orlando)? Research shows no clear date as to when Candida was actually written. But if you slow down Candida just a bit and skipping the intros, start both songs at the beginning of their first verses, they're almost the same song. Weird. Or is it just me...
- Caren, Detroit area, MI
I heard this song on K-Earth 101 in Los Angeles recently. I downloaded it (legally) and I LOVE this song. I had no idea it was inspired by the death of Martin Luther King Jr. (very nice thing to do). I want to use this song in a screenplay I'm writing. I hope I get permission. TOM
- Tom, Niles, MI
This is a classic and a departure after their two previous hits: "Good Lovin'" (1966) and "Groovin'" (1967). They definitely sent a political message in the heart of the Vietnam War and problems taking place in the USA.
- Donovan, Sacramento, CA
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