First Hit #1: August 17, 1968
Plenty of protest songs have been released and haven’t been anywhere near the number one position on the charts. People Got To Be Free, however, is just as much a protest as anything else, and it hit that top position for five weeks. What did it do different? It took its message and made it fun.
It’s a plea for tolerance and harmony among different people, and the need for people to work together. But it’s also a really poppy and upbeat song that you can dance to. A little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down, and the Rascals make the song just fun to listen to, dance to, and sing along with. Protest music is often aggressive and angry, because it sometimes takes anger to make one want to protest, but the Rascal’s tactic is an equally valid alternative. They make their view appealing by marrying it to a very appealing song, and it makes their ideal world sound like the kind of place you want to live. In some ways, that’s the most effective tactic to change a mind or two.