If there's one thing The Rascals' founder Felix Cavaliere wants people to know, it's that the band was founded for one purpose - to unite people with their music.
After years of triumphs, trials and tribulations, Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famers (1997) The Rascals are now telling their story on stage in “Once Upon A Dream.” The show hit Chicago last week in an exclusive engagement at The Cadillac Palace Theatre.
Producers Steven Van Zandt and Maureen Van Zandt, Marc Brickman and BASE Entertainment bring The Rascals’ journey to life during a two-hour show filled with an amazing light show, multi-media and the soulful sounds of the East Coast band made up of Felix Cavaliere (keyboard & vocals), Eddie Brigati (vocals), Gene Cornish (guitar) and Dino Danelli (drums). With hit after hit like “Groovin,” “People Got To Be Free,” “It’s A Beautiful Morning” and “Good Lovin’,” The Rascals would forever change music history.
On their recent Nov.5-11 Chicago tour, I caught up with The Rascals’ founder Felix Cavaliere.
Damian Rico: First of all, I would like to congratulate you on ‘Once Upon A Dream.’ There is such a buzz about the show.
Felix Cavliere: Thanks, we really appreciate the support and electricity.
DR: What were your initial thoughts when the show was presented to you?
FC: To be honest, Steven Van Zandt had a different story originally and I flew into New York to amend it. It was very important that the story was factual and healing at the same time. We didn’t want a fairy tale. Over the years, there’s been a lot of tension. After so many years of being separated and at odds with each other, we all needed resolution so that we could move on and do this right. Apologies were a big part of getting this done. This is not about a group getting back together. It’s about four guys remembering why we started all of this in the first place.
DR: What’s it like now to take the stage every night and just let loose and enjoy the music after all these years?
FC: Because we are all in a different place, for the better to some degree, we can now pay attention to the music and forget everything else that has distracted us for so many years.
DR: What’s your biggest surprise about the audience receiving this type of show?
FC: I wouldn’t necessarily call it a surprise, but what I have been impressed with the most is the emotions the audience feels during the show. There are tears, laughs and pure enjoyment going on and people leave just feeling good. It’s really a show, not The Rascals in concert. This is the whole picture. Legendary Lighting Design genius Marc Brickman who did the lights for Pink Floyd, U2 and Springsteen placed a 50-foot screen behind us and takes the audience back with an amazing multimedia display. The story is tragic, funny, true and interesting only because he was able to bring it life. It’s a new concept that celebrates the music of the Rascals. Just like it was in the beginning, it was all about making people feel good.
DR: Let’s go back to the beginning if we may. Who were Felix Cavaliere’s biggest influences?
FC: I was always impressed by phenomenal musicians but my focus at Syracuse University was Pre-Med and that is what I thought I was going to do until I went to Europe and hooked up with Joey Dee and the Starliters. I saw The Beatles before they hit the United States and their explosion took place. I met them when they were regular guys doing their thing and doing it well. That’s when I felt like I can make a career out of doing this. So in a distant way, it happened because of that experience.
DR: What achievements are you most proud of professionally?
FC: Being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (2009) with Eddie Brigati. That was cool. I really appreciated that recognition.
DR: How about personally?
FC: My children and grandchildren. I have five great kids and enjoy them and their happiness.That’s where it’s at.
DR: Tell me about that Hammond B Organ as your instrument of choice.
FC: It’s only fitting that we are in Chicago talking about this because this is where they come from. I had been playing the piano since I was five. I remember going into a club to see a trio perform. I was underage but needed to see ‘The Mighty Cravers.’ They were comprised of an organ, sax and a drummer. I immediately knew I had to do this. But the organs were expensive and not readily available. I took a train all the way to Macy’s in New York to check it out.
DR: Why do you think legendary icons such as The Rascals seem to always be resurfacing and staying relevant?
FC: I’m not sure of the exact answer to that but I do know that there are people that want to keep us in the public eye and that appreciate the music. When the four of us got together we were in my Dad’s basement and we had a crowd in front of our house that just wanted to hear us and have a good time. Now fast forward the clock 40 years later - nothing’s changed. After all these years, there’s still something very special still going on.
DR: That’s awesome! Tell me about the first time you heard The Rascals were nominated and later inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
FC: It was great! But when we were notified, there was a lot of turmoil going on with the band so I was not sure how that was going to play out. But we got through it. Listen, I know there are a lot of people who deserve to be in that are not. Fortunately, we had a tremendous amount of help from influential people that thought we needed to be in and we are grateful.
DR: Felix, what’s the best part of your job?
FC: Being able to play music that people enjoy and relate to. What a great feeling to see people love and feel the music. Today, with modern technology writing new stuff is so cool because you have the ability to get the finished product in a timely fashion. Creating and writing is much more gratifying.
DR: What’s the most challenging?
FC: Definitely the traveling!
DR: Let’s talk legacy. When it’s all said and done, how do you want people to remember Felix Cavaliere?
FC: It goes back to the beginning. I would like for people to remember what the group stood for, what we were all about. Our purpose was to unite people and getting the races together. Unfortunately, in the '60s there were a lot of differences being exposed and The Rascals were created to stand for peace, love and happiness. Our music was meant to do that.