** The Rascals / drummer Dino Dinelli,**
The term "blue-eyed soul" was allegedly coined for the Rascals (although none of them had blue eyes), whose approximation of mid-Sixties black pop crossed the color line. Dino Danelli began his career as a teenage jazz drummer (he played with Lionel Hampton's band) but switched to R&B while working in New Orleans, and he returned to New York to accompany such R&B acts as Little Willie John. There he met Eddie Brigati, a pickup singer on the local R&B circuit. Felix Cavaliere had studied classical piano before becoming the only white member of the Stereos, a group based in his suburban hometown. While a student at Syracuse University, he formed a doo-wop group, the Escorts. After leaving school, Cavaliere moved to New York City, where he met Danelli, and the two migrated to Las Vegas to try their luck with a casino house band. On their return to New York, Cavaliere joined Joey Dee and the Starliters (sometimes spelled Starlighters), which included Brigati and Gene Cornish.
The Rascals came together in 1964 after Cavaliere, Brigati, and Cornish left Dee and formed a quartet with Danelli. In February 1965 they began gigging in New Jersey and on Long Island. By year's end they had changed their name to the Young Rascals (after The Little Rascals) and released their first Atlantic single, "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" (#52, 1965), sung by Brigati. The group took a turn when Cavaliere sang the followup, "Good Lovin'" (#1, 1966), one of the year's biggest hits. In the following two years, the group had nine more Top Twenty hits, including "You Better Run" (#20, 1966), "(I've Been) Lonely Too Long" (#16, 1967), "Groovin'" (#l, 1967), and "A Girl Like You" (#10, 1967), most of them Cavaliere-Brigati compositions. Established hitmakers, the group tried to get serious in 1967, dropping the "Young" from its name and the Edwardian knickers from its onstage wardrobe. With Freedom Suite, the Rascals' music took on elements of jazz, but the quartet continued to score with "How Can I Be Sure" (#4, 1967 and sung by Brigati), "A Beautiful Morning" (#3, 1968), and "People Got to Be Free" (#1, 1968). Cavaliere and Brigati wrote the latter song shortly after the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Though they never brandished their politics like some bands, the Rascals truly lived theirs, demanding that a black act appear on the bill at each of its concerts. The principled stand cost them dates in the South.
The Rascals never had another Top Twenty hit after "People Got to Be Free." With Search and Nearness, their songs made room for lengthy instrumental tracks by jazzmen like Ron Carter, Hubert Laws, and Joe Farrell. Record sales and concert attendance plummeted. In 1971 they signed to Columbia, but Brigati and Cornish left before their label debut. Filling their shoes were Buzzy Feiten (Butterfield Blues Band), fresh from sessions for Bob Dylan's New Morning; Robert Popwell, whose session credits included work for Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Eddie Floyd, and Tim Hardin; and Ann Sutton, who had sung with various soul and jazz groups in Philadelphia. The band broke up in the early Seventies. Brigati recorded an album with his brother David in 1976; Cornish and Danelli started a group called Bulldog and later were part of Fotomaker with former Raspberries guitarist Wally Bryson. Feiten joined Neil Larsen in a duo in 1980. Cavaliere has continued as a solo artist and producer (Laura Nyro, Deadly Nightshade), and in 1994 released his first new album in nearly a decade and a half for producer Don Was' Karambolage label. In 1982, Danelli joined Steve Van Zandt's Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. He, Cornish, and Cavaliere reunited in 1988 for a U.S. tour, but the following year Danelli and Corish sued Cavaliere to prevent him from using the Rascals name. In a Solomonlike ruling, a judge allowed Cornish and Danelli to call themselves the New Rascals, and for Cavaliere to advertise himself as "formerly of the Young Rascals." In 1991 Eddie and David Brigati were featured on The New York Rock and Soul Revue, an all-star live album spearheaded by Steely Dan cofounder Donald Fagen.
Formed 1965, New York City, New York
Felix Cavaliere (b. Nov. 29, 1944, Pelham, New York), vocals, keyboards, music
Eddie Brigati (b. Oct. 22, 1945, Garfield, New Jersey), vocals, percussion, lyrics
Gene Cornish (b. May 14, 1945, Ottawa, Canada), guitar
Dino Danelli (b. July 23, 1945, New York City), drums
1966 -- The Young Rascals (Atlantic)
1967 -- Collections; Groovin'
1968 -- Once upon a Dream; Time Peace; The Rascals' Greatest Hits; Freedom Suite
1969 -- See
1970 -- Search and Nearness
Eddie Brigati and Gene Cornish leave the group...
1971 -- Peaceful World (Columbia)
1972 -- The Island of Real
1992 -- The Rascals Anthology (1965-1972) (Rhino)
1974 -- Felix Cavaliere (Bearsville)
1975 -- Destiny
1976 -- Treasure (Epic)
1980 -- Castles in the Air
1994 -- Dreams in Motion (Karambolage)
1976 -- Brigati (Elektra)
Biography of the Rascals
The Rascals (initially the Young Rascals) were paragons of "blue-eyed soul" - that is, soul music played and sung by white performers. Other well-known purveyors of blue-eyed soul include the Righteous Brothers and such British singers as Steve Winwood, Van Morrison and Joe Cocker. However, no one had more commercial clout in the Sixties than the Rascals, whose organist and lead singer, Felix Cavaliere, could belt it out with the best of them. The Rascals were masters of the three-minute single: sustained bursts of highly energized pop-soul made to be blasted over transistor radios or danced to at parties and discotheques. Three of the four members had apprenticed with Joey Dee and the Starliters (of "Peppermint Twist" fame), and all could legitimately claim backgrounds in R&B. The Rascals came together in New York City in 1964 when Cavaliere, guitarist Gene Cornish and vocalist Eddie Brigati left Dee and recruited drummer Dino Danelli.
Manager Sid Bernstein (who, as a promoter, brought the Beatles to Shea Stadium) got them signed to Atlantic Records in 1965. Their first single, "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore," stalled near the middle of the Hot Hundred but its follow-up, a breathlessly uptempo version of the Olympics' "Good Lovin'," went to #1 in March 1966. Several more quintessential blue-eyed soul singles followed, including "You Better Run" (#20, 1966) and "I've Been Lonely Too Long" (#16, 1967). At this point, the Rascals underwent a radical shift in direction. Inspired by the sweeping changes wrought by the Sixties counterculture, they took a markedly more mellow approach to their music. Once again they hit the jackpot when "Groovin'," a soulful reverie about "groovin' on a sunny afternoon," shot to #1 in the spring of 1967. By the end of the year, the Rascals had gone full-tilt psychedelic with songs like "It's Wonderful" (#20, 1967).
The Rascals' biggest hit, "People Got to Be Free," was cowritten by Cavaliere and Brigati as an impassioned response to the assassinations of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It topped the charts for five weeks in 1968 and inspired a follow-up single, "A Ray of Hope," written for and about Teddy Kennedy. At this juncture, the Rascals began focusing on albums instead of singles, as was typical of the time. Their more experimental, elongated approach resulted in records like Freedom Suite, a double album from 1969. By the early Seventies, the Rascals had mutated into an impressionistic jazz-rock outfit and moved from Atlantic to Columbia Records. It marked a continuing process of evolution for a band that not so many years earlier had been pop-soul sharpshooters with an unerring eye on the Top Forty.
The following is another retrospective.
The Rascals, along with the Righteous Brothers, Mitch Ryder, and precious few others, were the pinnacle of '60s blue-eyed soul. The Rascals' talents, however, would have to rate above their rivals, if for nothing else than the simple fact that they, unlike many other blue-eyed soulsters, penned much of their own material. They also proved more adept at changing with the fast moving times, drawing much of their inspiration from British Invasion bands, psychedelic rock, gospel, and even a bit of jazz and Latin music. They were at their best on classic singles like "Good Lovin'," "How Can I Be Sure," "Groovin'," and "People Got to Be Free." When they tried to stretch their talents beyond the impositions of the three minute 45, they couldn't pull it off, a failure which (along with crucial personnel losses) effectively finished the band as a major force by the 1970's. The roots of the Rascals were in New York (area) twist and bar bands. Keyboardist and singer Felix Cavaliere had played with Joey Dee & the Starliters, where he met Canadian guitarist Gene Cornish and singer Eddie Brigati. Eddie would split the lead vocals with Cavaliere, and also write much of the band's material with Felix.
With the addition of drummer Dino Dinelli, they became the Rascals. Over their objections, manager Sid Bernstein (who had promoted the famous Beatles concerts at Carnegie Hall and Shea Stadium) dubbed them the Young Rascals, although the "Young" was permanently dropped from the billing in a couple of years. After a small hit with "I Ain't Gonna Eat out My Heart Anymore" in 1965, the group hit number one with "Good Lovin'," a cover of an R&B tune by the Olympics, in 1966. This was the model for the Rascals' early sound: a mixture of hard R&B and British Invasion energy, with tight harmony vocals and arrangements highlighting Cavaliere's Hammond organ. After several smaller hits in the same vein, the group began to mature at a rapid rate in 1967, particularly as songwriters. "Groovin'," "Beautiful Morning," "It's Wonderful," and "How Can I Be Sure?" married increasingly introspective and philosophical lyrics to increasingly sophisticated arrangements and production, without watering down the band's most soulful qualities. They were also big hits, providing some of the era's most satisfying blends of commercial and artistic appeal.
In 1968, almost as if to prove they could shake 'em down as hard as any soul revue, the Rascals made number one with one of their best songs, "People Got to Be Free." An infectious summons to unity and tolerance in the midst of a very turbulent year for American society, it also reflected the Rascals' own integrationist goals. Not only did they blend White and Black in their music; they also, unlike many acts of the time, refused to tour on bills that weren't integrated as well. "People Got to Be Free," surprisingly, was the group's last Top 20 hit, although they would have several other small chart entries over the next few years, often in a more explicitly gospel-influenced style. The problem wasn't bad timing or shifting commercial taste; the problem was the material itself, which wasn't up to the level of their best smashes. More worrisome were their increasingly ambitious albums, which found Cavaliere in particular trying to expand into jazz, instrumentals, and Eastern philosophy. Not that this couldn't have worked well, but it didn't. They had never been an album-oriented group, but unlike other some other great mid-sixties bands, they were unable to satisfactorily expand their talents into full-length formats. A more serious problem was the departure of Brigati, the band's primary lyricist, in 1970. Cornish was also gone a year later, although Cavaliere and Danelli kept the Rascals going a little longer with other musicians. The band broke up in 1972, with none of the members going on to notable commercial or artistic success on their own, though Cavaliere remained the most active.