Rascals’ Gene Cornish: ‘I Was Pronounced Dead’

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Gene Cornish (R) with the Rascals

Gene Cornish, a founding member of the Rascals, collapsed on stage in Billings, Mont., on September 7, suffering a heart arrhythmia. The guitarist had been performing on tour with Felix Cavaliere, another of the blue-eyed soul quartet’s founders, and with Hall of Fame drummer, Carmine Appice. The duo issued a statement on September 13 indicating that Cornish is said to be feeling “remarkably better.”

What we didn’t know until September 20, however, is that Cornish, apparently, cheated death. On a post on his Facebook page, a grateful Cornish wrote: “Billings Montana the city that I was pronounced dead and then brought back to life. God bless you and thank you for all the first responders.”

[The Billings Gazette initially reported that Cornish fell after the band completed their first song, “A Beautiful Morning,” at the Alberta Bair Theater. From the paper: “Medical personnel were eventually able to revive Cornish, who was then taken to a Billings hospital, said Jody Grant, programming and marketing director for the Alberta Bair Theater. Both a defibrillator and CPR were administered.”]

On September 13, the Cavaliere-Cornish tour Facebook page, offered an update on Cornish’s health and the tour. They wrote, in part: “It was only just three months ago that two legendary founders of the band The Rascals, Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish, announced they were going to tour together for the first time in five years.”

More from the duo‘s statement: “Doctors at the Billings Clinic implanted a pacemaker to correct the condition. Cornish is resting from this minor procedure and feeling remarkably better.”

“I feel so grateful to the two nurses that were in attendance at our show,” Cornish, 74, said. “I’m so thankful for the staff at the Alberta Bair Theatre and the many people that helped me. Everything happened so quickly and their training came right into play. They knew what to do and no one hesitated.”

Cornish has been cleared to start his rehabilitation and resume performances in October.

Members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rascals formed in New Jersey in 1965 and scored 17 Top 20 singles, three of them #1 hits: “Groovin’,” “Good Lovin’” and “People Got to Be Free,” the latter of which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its July 1, 1968 release this year.

Felix Cavaliere, Gene Cornish and Carmine Appice (L to R)

A timeline of previous updates from the musicians and their friends:

A brief note was posted on September 7 on the Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish’s Rascals Facebook page: “We ask for continued prayers for Gene. He is at the hospital and receiving the best medical care. We thank all the fans that were with us tonight, as well as the amazing staff at Alberta Bair Theatre and first responders. We hope to know more soon and our thoughts and prayers are with Gene.”

On September 8, Appice posted an update on his personal Facebook page: “Thank God for he answered all our prayers Gene Cornish is better. God bless 🙏🙏🙏 thank you everyone one for your prayers and concern. Thanks to everyone at the Theater here in Billings for the fast response.it saved our good friend Genes life Amen again ❤️👍😊thank you God !!”

That same day, good news arrived from the Cavaliere-Cornish Facebook page: “We have some wonderful news to share – and many thanks to the fans and all those have reached out with prayers and well-wishes. Gene is resting comfortably and doctors say he will make a speedy recovery. We will see everyone soon!”

On September 9, Cornish’s fiancee, Debbee Davis – who was not with him at the time – provided an update on her Facebook page: “We are so grateful and thankful to that woman who jumped up on stage and [began] all necessary steps and trying to save someone’s life until the paramedics got there and all those who worked very hard to revive him!!

“He went into cardiac arrest on stage due to the failure of the electric signals. [A] pacemaker or small defibrillator will be used to prevent this in the future! I’ll find out more hopefully today.

“Always a reminder how life can change in an instant.”

And a post from Cornish on his Facebook page, also on September 9: “I want to thank all my friends and fans for the wonderful wishes and support I am doing great !!! I’ll be back real soon Better than ever.”

On September 10, an update from musician Ira Marlowe appeared on Cornish’s Facebook page: “Thank you everyone for your prayers. Gene Cornish came out with flying colors. Actually, better than new. We all will enjoy Genes music for years to come. Again your prayers worked!”

Cornish posted a mini update on September 12: “I am doing great thanks for all the great support and best wishes and prayers; I’ll see you soon.”

“I had an epiphany while performing in Hawaii last year,” said Cavaliere (singer/songwriter/keyboards) when the dates were announced. “It’s not about me—it’s about the fans. It’s about the music. I spoke with Gene and he agreed that we can’t take any of this for granted anymore.”

Cornish, who first worked with Cavaliere and future Rascals singer Eddie Brigati in Joey Dee and the Starliters in 1964, echoed those feelings. “There’s something magical that happens when we’re on stage together,” he said at the same time. “We’re going to celebrate these songs for as long as the fans allow us to and give the fans a chance to see us perform live.”

Watch them perform “A Beautiful Morning” during the tour

Felix Cavaliere & Gene Cornish’s Rascals with Carmine Appice Dates (Tickets are available here and here)
Sep 21 – Mayo Performing Arts – Morristown, NJ
Sep 22 – Rhode Island Center for the Arts – Cranston, RI
Oct 21 – Count Basie RWJ Barnabas Health Arena – Toms River, NJ
Oct 25 – The Ridgefield Playhouse – Ridgefield, CT
Oct 26 – The Town Hall – New York, NY
Oct 27 – Lynn Memorial Auditorium – Lynn, MA
Nov 2 – Family Arena – St. Charles, MO
Nov 4 – Louisville Palace Theatre – Louisville, KY

Cornish was born in Ottawa, Ontario on May 14, 1944.

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