The classically trained pianist, born in Pelham, New York, idolized Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, and Sam Cook. Cavaliere embraced the Hammond Organ and pioneered a fresh, rock and roll sound. Upon leaving Syracuse University, he formed the Escorts, and become a backup musician for Joey Dee and the Starliters and later Sandy Scott.
Early in 1965, Cavaliere formed the “Young Rascals” with Dino Danelli, Eddie Brigati, and Gene Cornish. That October, they caught the attention of promoter/manager Sid Bernstein with their high-energy set at Long Island’s elite club, Barge. Signed to Atlantic Records, and now called The Rascals, the mega hit “Good Lovin’” struck No. 1 in February 1966. They followed suit with a string of hits like “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” “Groovin’(No. 1 in 1967), “How Can I Be Sure,” “A Girl Like You,” “A Beautiful Morning,” and “People Got to Be Free” (No. 1 in 1968). The Rascals are considered the best “blue-eyed soul” group to come out of the 1960s, as well as one of the groups with the most record sales.