Felix Cavaliere, The Rascals with Gene Cornish, November 11th, 2022 St. George Theater in Staten Island

“I have a new appreciation for Stephen King because this was a lot of work,” Cavaliere said. “I did this because I’m in my seventh decade and I was only a Rascal for five or six years of my life. What about the other years? I thought people might find that interesting. In the end, I’m happy to have relived the memories of my family, kids, grandkids and guru Swami Paramahansa Yogananda.” 

The idea for this memoir came about when Van Zandt convinced the original Rascals quartet of Cavaliere, Cornish, Dino Danelli and Eddie Brigati to reunite in 2012 for “The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream,” a combination concert/theatrical event that told the history of the band. It eventually was staged on Broadway and taken on the road for a national tour. Plans to return to the Great White Way in December 2013/January 2014 were instead canceled. During this time, Cavaliere realized the history of his group was based on four identical perspectives that didn’t always necessarily gibe. 

“The interesting thing is that the press conferences [following those performances] would have the four of us onstage and they would ask us questions,” he recalled. “I noticed that every single one of us had a different answer for the same question. I tell it as a joke, but what is history? The last man standing writes the book and what happened? Look at this current situation in Ukraine. What do you read, Russian books or NATO books? Where is the truth? It really changed my thinking about a lot of things. I decided to write my views, opinions and memories down.” 

The flow of “Memoir of a Rascal” feels as if you’re kicking back with Cavaliere as he relives a bucolic childhood learning classical music before getting bit by the rock and roll bug. The Nashville resident is frank about his struggles to please his parents, who expected him to become a doctor, while he harbored dreams of becoming a professional musician, even while he went off to Syracuse University, where he counted Lou Reed among his classmates. 

 Cavaliere shares the pain of losing his mother at the age of 13 and the eventual path to spiritual enlightenment he found when he met his guru. He credits this relationship with steadying a life that found him navigating fatherhood, divorce, the dissolution of The Rascals and the passing of his ex-wife and a child. Both in the autobiography and in conversation, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer is quick to credit the impact the late Yogananda had on his life.

“In the book, I mention how much a help my guru was in my career and life,” he said. “This man put me on a path that I never left and I’m so grateful for that. I’m still on that path, still healthy, still able to work and sing because of a lot of the tenets he taught me. It’s pretty simple—you take care of your mind, soul and your body and you’re going to be alright.” 

Now that he’s back on the road with Cornish, the wellness Cavaliere has practiced is serving him well, considering touring can quickly take its toll on musicians half of Cavaliere’s age. But with the help of his long-serving musical collaborators, he’s eager to play live as the world continues to emerge from the pandemic.  

 “I’ve got a fantastic band down here in Tennessee, where it’s very easy for groups to happen because this place is all about people getting together, writing, creating and doing something,” he said. “It’s so interesting because the Rascals, in total, were together for five years and we just disintegrated. I’ve been together with these guys, with the exception of one member, for 17 or 20 years. We’ve got a symbiotic type of relationship that shows and sounds on stage. It’s like a musical version of making love. It’s a joy. These songs are alive in this band. We just did a show in Boston. It just kicked butt. We’re coming through after the pandemic and everyone is anxious to get out and play—it’s obvious. You can feel it. It’s like horses that have been locked up in a barn all winter.” 

Recent years have also found Cavaliere continuing to challenge himself by tapping into the classical music training that was such a part of his early creative evolution. 

“We’ve also kind of indulged in the past with symphonic shows,” he said. “I’ve got my charts written out for symphony. I’ve done two of them so far and I really want to do some more. It’s kind of full circle for me coming from classical music to the symphony orchestra. It’s a difficult world to crack into because first of all, the tickets and shows are sponsored a year in advance. They’re all ready for 2023 already. It’s also a pretty selective audience. They buy these subscriptions by the year for the concert halls. I really want to do more of that if I can.”

 With another album under his belt that he aims to release by early next year, Cavaliere is being driven by a clean life, love of family and an insatiable appetite for making music that’s keeping him youthful and on the road.  

“Having done this book, my biggest takeaway is ‘How lucky am I?,’” he said. “Not only have I had an unbelievable career, but an unbelievable life. It’s not perfect. I lost a daughter. I lost a band. I’ve been divorced. I lost a wife. But you know what? I’m very thankful because when you get to the end of the book, I’m still going.” 

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