Formed in Garfield, New Jersey in 1965, The Rascals charted nine singles before the end of the 1960s. Hits like “Good Lovin’,” “Groovin;” and “A Beautiful Morning” remain radio staples almost 50 years after their release. Notable Rascals fans include Billy Joel, Paul Shaffer, and E-Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt. Meanwhile, Rascals songs have been recorded by Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Gloria Estefan, The Grateful Dead, Shania Twain, John Travolta and Hanson, beyond being sampled by A Tribe Called Quest, Tricky and Girl Talk.
Founding Rascals keyboardist/vocalist Felix Cavaliere didn’t slow down after the group broke up in the early 1970s; he recorded four major label solo albums in the 1970s alone. He has also thrived as a musician and producer for other artists, having collaborated with Laura Nyro, Jimmie Spheeris, Steve Cropper, and Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. An induction into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame would follow in 2009. One year later in 2010, Felix reunited with his Rascals bandmates for a benefit show at the Tribeca Grill, which led to a 15-show Broadway run at the Richard Rogers Theatre in 2013.
Downtown spoke with Felix in advance of his Mar. 4 show at the Theatre at Westbury. Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals will be sharing the stage in Westbury with Tommy James & The Shondells, ensuring an evening full of pop and rock classics. More on Felix and crew can be found at www.felixcavalieremusic.com.
What do you wish more people knew about Felix Cavaliere?
Felix Cavaliere: That I’m a happy and contented family man.
You were a member of Joey Dee & The Starliters, who I know Peter Criss from KISS played with at least once. Did you two ever talk shop about that?
FC: Oh, yes. Definitely. Many fine musicians have been in the Joey Dee band, including Jimi Hendrix and Joe Pesci. We are all honored to be a part of this group as alumni and musicians.
You’re thought of as a New York and New Jersey guy, but you live in Nashville. What brought you out there?
FC: New York has a special place in my heart, absolutely. Nashville has been the musician’s hub for writing and producing for quite awhile now. It’s been a wonderful place to raise my family and see my grandkids grow.
Where was the first gig you ever played in New York City?
FC: The first New York City gig must have been Peppermint Lounge.
What about on Long Island? What do you remember about that?
FC: Long Island was the place where we were discovered, and we worked in many places for many years. That’s what you did. People have adopted us as their own.
Westbury gig aside, what’s coming up for you?
FC: I’m writing a book about my life, working on symphonic appearances, as well as a new album. And I’m touring! I’m so blessed to have the greatest fans in the world. They have shared the music with their offspring, and we’re seeing younger fans. Just this summer we were in Japan and it was such a thrill to have the audiences singing along with us. It makes me so happy.
Is there a professional accomplishment you’re most proud of?
FC: The Songwriters Hall Of Fame is a real pinnacle for me.
Do you have a favorite Rascals song to play live?
FC: I love them all, but depending on time of the year, “Beautiful Morning” or “People Got To Be Free.”
When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?
FC: I’m an avid reader and a scuba diver. Maybe scuba diving should have been in my first answer!
Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?
FC: I adore Lattanzi’s on W 46th Street.
Finally, Felix, any last words for the kids?
FC: Be good to each other. And thank you for everyone that has enjoyed and been a part of my extended family for over 50 years. It’s wonderful to keep performing and singing these songs that are a part of peoples’ lives. I’m truly grateful and humbled by this.