Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Felix Cavaliere during a performance in a 2019 publicity photo. Cavaliere, the keyboardist and vocalist for the 1960s rock band the Rascals, will be honored by the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University on Feb. 23 with the Free Speech in Music Award at a special event in Tucker Theatre. Photo by Leon Volskis
Generations have celebrated Felix Cavaliere’s music, and on Feb. 23 the Free Speech Center will celebrate Felix Cavaliere.
A founding member of the classic rock band the Rascals, Cavaliere will receive the Free Speech in Music Award in an evening of music and celebration at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. The event is free and open to the public.
The award is presented by the Free Speech Center at MTSU in partnership with the university's Center for Popular Music and College of Media and Entertainment. The honor recognizes artists who have used their talents, fame and visibility to address important social issues and who have demonstrated the power of music as a form of free speech. It is presented with the support of the MTSU Distinguished Lecture Committee.
Cavaliere will receive the award at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 in Tucker Theatre, located inside MTSU’s Boutwell Dramatic Arts Auditorium at 615 Champion Way. A campus map is available at http://bit.ly/MTSUParking.
The event will include a conversation between Cavaliere and Ken Paulson, director of the Free Speech Center, as well as a special appearance by the artist’s current touring band, Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals.
“Felix Cavaliere has contributed so much through his music and engagement with American society," Paulson said. “From the anthemic 1968 hit 'People Got to Be Free' to his early commitment to onstage diversity to years of supporting important causes, Felix has lived his lyrics.”
Cavaliere, a native of Pelham, N.Y., who now lives in Nashville, is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with The Rascals, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Musicians Hall of Fame.
His career from 1965 to 1972 with The Rascals, originally known as the Young Rascals, featured four No. 1 hits, including their first, 1966's "Good Lovin'," and "People Got to Be Free" in 1968. The band had 10 top-20 singles and six top-20 albums,
Cavaliere and the Rascals also stood up for civil rights, refusing to perform on segregated tours and ensuring that at least half of the musicians who performed with them were black.
“Music is the ultimate expression of free speech; to receive this award is undoubtedly a feather in my cap as a musician,” Cavaliere said. “It goes in tandem with my role as an American citizen.
“I believe in the power of words and expression and couldn't be more honored to be named a recipient of the Free Speech in Music Award,” he said. “It seems there is always a time that our First Amendment rights are being threatened, and I'm truly grateful to play my part in keeping its torch burning bright."
Cavaliere, a classically trained pianist as well as a songwriter and producer, has long been a supporter of U.S. military veterans and their families and has spent decades performing in support of a wide range of causes.
“In 1968, Felix and the Rascals were there for the Martin Luther King Memorial Benefit Concert at Madison Square, billed second to only Aretha Franklin,” Paulson said. “Felix Cavaliere has continued that spirit of giving for more than half a century.
“In just the last six months — and despite the pandemic — he has performed in support of Stop Soldier Suicide, Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock teen centers, hospice care, and production of a film celebrating an AM radio pioneer. He has long used his talent, fame and free speech to make a difference.”
The Feb. 23 discussion at Tucker Theatre will also preview Cavaliere’s autobiography, Memoir of a Rascal: From Pelham, N.Y., to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, to be published in March.
“This is such a fitting tribute to Felix Cavaliere, who is an important figure in popular music history. As our students learn in their classes, his music has served as a bridge connecting generations,” said Beverly Keel, dean of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment.
“Quite simply, his music has helped change the world. He is a tremendous role model for our students.”
The Free Speech Center is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, based in the College of Media and Entertainment, that woks to build understanding of the First Amendment through education and information.
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