People Got to Be Free

Album: Freedom Suite (1968)
Charted: 1
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  • 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.

Comments: 11

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 6th 1969, the Rascals performed "People Got to Be Free" on the ABC-TV program 'The Music Scene'*...
    Fifteen months earlier on July 14th, 1968 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart {See the next post below}...
    At the time of the quartet's appearance on the show their "Carry Me Back" was at #26 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, that was its peak position on the Top 100 {they didn't perform the song on that show}...
    * 'The Music Scene' debut on Sept. 22nd, 1969 and ran for 17 episodes.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn 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.
  • Magicman from Brighton, United KingdomDionne 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.
  • Mrcleaveland from Cleveland,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.
  • John from Carlsbad, NmThis 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.
  • Donna from College Station, TxNo 7 Oct 1968, Top 10 Singles, source Billboard hits of 20 years ago this week Oct 8, 1988
  • Sarah from Kennewick, WaGreat, Great, Great song. Beautiful in its simplicity, divine in its timelessness.
  • Eb from Richmond Hill, GaThe 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 . . .

  • Caren from Detroit Area, MiAnybody 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...
  • Tom from Niles, MiI 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
  • Donovan from Sacramento, CaThis 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.
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