The Making Of The Young Rascals' "Groovin'"
(Since its inception in 1973, the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame has enshrined nearly 1,000 recordings across all genres. The Making Of … series presents firsthand accounts of the creative process behind some of the essential recordings of the 20th century. You can read more Making Of … accounts, and in-depth insight into the recordings and artists represented in the Hall, in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition book.)
The Young Rascals
(As told to Tammy La Gorce)
The story behind "Groovin'" is different depending on who you want to deal with, who you want to listen to. But from my perspective, how we designed this song is [the Young Rascals' singer] Felix [Cavaliere] said to me, "I can't write lyrics." So he'd get a song going and I'd develop a thing where I said to him, "In a sentence, or in a word or two, what would you call that [song]?" With "Groovin'" he said, "groovin'."
And he was right. That was what it sounded like.
At the time we were living in a hotel [in New York City] right upstairs from the Copacabana [nightclub], right off Central Park — this was 50, 48 years ago. And you'd go out your door, and you'd walk down the block, and there was Central Park. So you were on a crowded avenue. And you were doing anything you wanted to do, being anyone you wanted to be.
I ended up writing 23 verses. I still have them somewhere in our archives, but nobody knows where they are.
Felix at the time was motivated by what was going on in his personal life, so he threw me the ball to write and I was writing about what was surrounding me, where I was. We took one or two of those verses, and we linked another verse to it, and then my brother David [Brigati, lead singer of Joey Dee & The Starliters] came in and sang harmonies, which lent a lot to it.
The singing was important because the human voice is the first thing people relate to. Don't tell the musicians that, but it's true. I learned that from [Atlantic Records head] Jerry Wexler. With ["Groovin'"], the Young Rascals were able to reach people with our words and our singing.
And that was it, a short story. It became that simple little summer song everybody knows.