The Rascals – People Got to Be Free

The Rascals – People Got to Be Free

‘People Got to Be Free’ is a song released in 1968 by the Rascals, written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati and featuring a lead vocal from Cavaliere. While the lyrics of the song were perceived by some as related to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and of Robert F. Kennedy earlier that year, it was recorded before the latter's death. Rather, it was partly a reaction to an ugly encounter wherein the long-haired group was threatened by a group of rednecks, because the group had grown beards and longer hair, after their tour vehicle broke down in Fort Pierce, Florida.

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. 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.

It became a big hit in the turbulent summer of 1968, spending five weeks atop the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, the group's longest such stay. It was also the group's second-most successful single on the Billboard Black Singles chart, reaching number 14 and trailing only the previous year's ‘Groovin'’. ‘People Got to Be Free’ was RIAA-certified as a gold record on August 23, 1968, and eventually sold over 4 million copies. It later was included on the group's March 1969 album Freedom Suite. Billboard ranked the record as the number 5 song for 1968.

The song is clearly a product of its times; however, two decades later writer Dave Marsh included it as number 237 in his book Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles of All Time, saying in reference to, and paraphrase of, the song's lyric, "Ask me my opinion, my opinion will be: Dated, but NEVER out of date." After this song came out, the Rascals would only perform at concerts that featured an African American act; when that condition was not met, the Rascals cancelled several shows in protest.

Label – Atlantic
Songwriters – Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati
Producers – The Rascals, Arif Mardin


All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
Listen, please listen, that's the way it should be
Peace in the valley, people got to be free
(Ah-ah, yeah, ah-ah, yeah)
[Verse 1]
You should see, what a lovely, lovely world this'd be
Everyone learns to live together
Seems to me such an easy, easy thing should be
Why can't you and me learn to love one another?
No, have you now?
All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
I can't understand it, so simple to me
People everywhere just got to be free
(Ah-ah, yeah, ah-ah, yeah)
[Verse 2]
If there's a man who is down and needs a helping hand
All it takes is you to understand and to pull him through
It seems to me we got to solve it individually
And I'll do unto you what you do to me
Said no, oh, oh
There'll be shoutin' from the mountains on out to sea
No two ways about it, people have to be free
Ask me my opinion, my opinion will be
It's a natural situation for a man to be free
(Ah-ah, yeah, ah-ah, yeah) Get right on board, now!
[Instrumental Bridge]
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
Look, you see that train over there?
Now, that's the train of freedom
It's about to ride any minute, now
You know it's been long, long overdue
Look out 'cause it's comin' right on through
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