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People Got to Be Free by The Rascals
Album: Freedom SuiteReleased: 1968Charted:
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.